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.
Sun, 1 December 2019
(Is.2:1-5 or Is.4:2-6; Ps.122:1-9; Mt.8:5-11
I shall treat of both first readings)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”
For it shall come. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain…. All nations shall stream toward it,” and there the Lord will give judgment. And His judgment will cause the banishment of war, for all shall be one in Him, and to all He shall grant “shelter and protection,” by night and by day.
The coming peace and unity all find on the holy mountain of Jerusalem prophesied by Isaiah is signaled in our gospel passage today as the Gentile centurion approaches Jesus with a request made in great faith. His surpassing faith prompts the Lord to reveal the truth of the coming kingdom: “Many will come from the east and the west and will find a place at the banquet in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” For it is faith that brings us to Him and to His blessings.
Certainly the serving boy for whom the centurion intercedes receives healing from the Lord; and certainly all those who “go up to the house of the Lord” in faith shall themselves be gratefully received. I pray we all remain in Zion, remain in “her place of assembly,” and so find refuge from “storm and rain” and from the “heat of day.” The New Jerusalem we know is the Catholic Church, is the faith handed down by Jesus through His apostles and blessed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that within these walls we shall always find peace and protection, and we pray for all to stream toward the truth and the glory found in this House. There all shall find cleansing from their sins; “with a blast of searing judgment,” the Lord has created this Virgin Bride. So, “let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
As Jesus remarks to His followers, “I have never found this much faith in Israel,” He is calling them to an increase in their faith. He calls us, too, brothers and sisters, to act more readily upon His commands. Let us not fall short in our service to Him, and the peace of Jerusalem shall just as readily be ours.
O LORD, may all souls come to your holy mountain
and find there a home of peace.
YHWH, peace reigns in your House, and all those of faith find a place there. From every corner of the earth, men shall stream toward Jerusalem, where you dwell, where you teach the nations. Draw all souls into Holy Church.
You are the refuge and protection for all who are purged from their sin; all who come to you for cleansing of the blood from their hands find in you a place of peace and forgiveness, LORD. May all swords be beaten into plowshares – the war come from men’s hearts be banished forever.
All nations you call, O LORD, and all those of faith you accept into your kingdom. Let us be obedient in serving you that we might find your peace within our hearts and dwell on your holy mountain forever.
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.
Thu, 28 November 2019
(Dn.7:2-14; Dn.3:59,75-81; Lk.21:29-33)
“The beast was slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.”
Daniel prophesies the coming of pagan empires in his vision of the four beasts. The vision is, in short, an overview of the coming salvation.
Notice that even as Daniel watches the beasts emerge with their horns and tusks and great iron teeth, even as he watches these terrible creatures devour and crush and trample in a kind of destructive euphoria… what does he see? “Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took His throne.” The Lord God, the Eternal King, is there. (He is never far away.) And the arrogant horn is cast into eternal flame, and the other beasts lose their dominion, too, though they received “a prolongation of life for a time,” indicating that a measure of the wickedness of such beastly empires – several of which we have seen very clearly in the last century – shall remain. But, nonetheless, there is “one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” and He indeed receives “everlasting dominion,” a “kingship [that] shall not be destroyed.” Like the Father in His eternal reign is the Son, who has come into our midst and even now winnows away the chaff of this world.
That even as evil presumes to reign the Lord is at work, is assuming His eternal reign in the heavenly kingdom, is evident in Jesus’ words to the disciples in our gospel. He has told them to watch for the terrible signs which will come upon the earth and bring its destruction, and equates the recognition of these signs and wonders of the end time with the budding of a fig tree signaling the coming summer. Jesus is the fig tree, the peace that is born even in the midst of war, the love that grows though surrounded by hatred – the light that overcomes all darkness.
“The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Though the mountains fall into the sea, the Lord’s heavenly reign but comes to fulfillment. Then all creatures, all “beasts, wild and tame,” “everything growing from the earth” and all “seas and rivers” will “praise and exalt Him” whose kingdom lasts forever.
O LORD, the myriads ministering to you
overcome the power of all beasts,
and by your only Son their fate is sealed
and the kingdom comes forever.
YHWH, your reign is near, always at hand. Despite the beasts which remain for a time, your Son has come and conquered all darkness. There is no death or sin in Him, no power that evil has before Him, and so those who find their life in Him shall indeed endure forever. Heaven and earth are passing away but His dominion is everlasting.
Thank you for sending your Son to us, dear God, to cast all evil to the dust, to teach of the kingdom to come. In Him indeed summer is near, a time of great fruitfulness – the time when we shall share with Him in the eternal fruits of Heaven. Peace is upon us, though the destruction of war be all around.
And so, what can we do but praise you, LORD of Heaven and earth? All your creatures can but sing of your glory and bless your holy NAME. This day let your fire burn all our sins away. Alleluia.
Wed, 27 November 2019
(Dn.6:12-28; Dn.3:59,68-74; Lk.21:20-28)
“Your ransom is near at hand.”
“He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” And as “He delivered Daniel from the lions’ power,” so He shall save our souls from the destruction to come upon the face of the earth.
The king’s prayer is answered: “To Daniel he said, ‘May your God whom you serve so constantly, save you.’” And when the lions’ mouths are closed because of David’s innocence before God and men, Darius in awe of the living God writes to the nations that the kingdom of the God of Daniel “shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be without end.” Another pagan king is brought to his knees in truth… “Praise and exalt Him above all forever”! Indeed, “let the earth bless the Lord.”
But it is deliverance which is our theme today. Daniel is delivered from certain death in the lions’ den, and our Lord speaks to us of the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the end of time – “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” – and of our means of escape from annihilation. Yes, we must flee the devastation that is near, flee to the mountains from the midst of the city, not linger behind in the land of Sodom as the angel comes to guide us to safety. Indeed, we must lift our heads to the sky even as its powers are shaken and all comes crashing to the ground but the strength of our God. For on that Day He will be made manifest, and on that Day, if we “stand up straight,” our deliverance from sin and the powers of this world will be joyously known by our eternal souls. And we shall celebrate as did the king and Daniel upon the holy man’s removal from the lion’s den – and we shall praise the Almighty’s name with “nights and days,” with “lightnings and clouds,” with all the elements of the Lord’s universe. Alleluia!
Fear not, brothers and sisters, “in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.” Even as you are called, so you must be – to be “clever as snakes and innocent as doves” (Mt.10:16). Follow the saints’ examples in simple obedience to the Shepherd’s voice and, harboring no ill will toward your persecutors, be prepared to lay down your life if it be in the Lord’s will, knowing full well that He will rescue you.*
* For this final thought I credit St. John Chrysostom and his wisdom, as found in this morning's Office of Readings.
O LORD, you are coming with great power and glory –
praise your holy NAME!
YHWH, we need not fear that the lion’s mouth will close upon us. Though the heavens be shaken and darkness cover the land, with your Son we may stand tall. Anticipation of His coming, joy at the salvation He brings – the eternal peace that follows in His wake – will keep us strong on the Day of judgment. From the den of the lion we shall be freed.
The end must come, we know, O LORD. All these things must pass away. May we stand in innocence before you on that day, and so live with you forever in your kingdom. In this city let us not desire to remain, but with your Son let us fly to Heaven.
O LORD, let all hearts turn to you before that great and terrible Day; let even the kings of this world recognize you as the one true God. Send your angels throughout the earth to work your wonders and save all holy souls from destruction.
Tue, 26 November 2019
(Dn.5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28; Dn.3:59,62-67; Lk.21:12-19)
“You will be brought to give witness.”
“Daniel was brought into the presence of the king.” And what did this wisest of men have to say to this pagan king who ruled the earth? “You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven.” He did not hesitate to tell him of the emptiness of his “gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence.” And, remarkably, not a hair of his head is harmed; even this pagan ruler recognizes the truth of his words, and accepts that he will lose his kingdom.
“Before kings and governors” you will be summoned, “all because of my name,” says the Lord. Yes, witness must be given to “the God in whose hand is [our] life breath and the whole course of [our] life.” The world must come to know Him; light must be brought into the darkness. Is this an easy task? Certainly not. It may be glorious insofar as the Lord blesses our words, insofar as we trust in Him, not worrying about our “defense” beforehand – but the darkness resists the light; the world does not wish to hear of its sins, nor to be called to turn from them. Turning from sin is a painful process, and rather than endure its throes there will be those who would prefer to impose such persecution upon those who call to the depths of their hearts. Unwilling to suffer conversion, they make others suffer for their righteousness.…
All the apostles underwent martyrdom: our Lord rules from a cross. But though we may not escape punishment from those to whom we are called to speak, as has Daniel the prophet, yet as Daniel surely “not a hair of [our] head will be harmed.” For though we be killed for the Word of truth, yet our redemption awaits us: in heaven’s light all is whole. And the rewards offered Daniel even by this pagan king will be as our own in paradise.
“I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict,” our Lord assures us. Let us trust in this gift of faith and witness, and praise with “sun and moon” and “stars of heaven” Him who is “exalted above all forever.” Let us never fear to speak of our God and His hand at work in our lives.
O LORD, if before kings we speak the truth,
yet will our lives be spared,
for your Son indeed rules over all.
YHWH, your dew from Heaven falls upon us and we are given words and wisdom. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to stand before kings and governors and give witness to your glory. And though our words may accuse those to whom we speak of their failure to worship you, yet not a hair of our heads shall be harmed, even if we be executed. For Jesus has died on the Cross, yet He lives forever. And now His Spirit reigns over all who put their trust in you.
By patient endurance may our lives be saved, O mighty LORD and God. To you let us ever turn our sights, and our spirits shall not be defeated. Rather, the kingdom of those who mock your glory shall be divided and brought low.
O may we not be found wanting on the day you judge the world! All the gods of silver and gold, wood and stone, let us set aside to praise you alone, our Savior and our God.
Mon, 25 November 2019
(Dn.2:31-45; Dn.3:57-61; Lk.21:5-11)
“The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once,
fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer,
and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace.”
So shall the kingdom of this world be destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it”; so shall Jesus come – the Son of God, the King of kings – and make all things subject to Himself. And when shall this be? It has happened, and is happening, and will happen soon: fear not in your hearts. Simply praise the Lord of the universe.
There will be no trace of this world remaining when the Lord does come. He shall be the stone that “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth,” which “shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them.” And by whose hand shall this be done? “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people.” And so, if accomplished by the hand of God and not by man, why do we look upon the “wars and insurrections,” “plagues and famines,” and become fearful, as if these shall bring the end? No, “the end does not follow immediately.” We cannot state the time any more than could Daniel, the greatest of all interpreters of dreams and visions. So why are we misled when many come in the Lord’s name saying, “I am He” or “The time is at hand,” as if these could force the hand of God?
Let not the “fearful omens” and “great signs” perturb you, brothers and sisters. These are for those without faith as a warning to turn to God, but for those with faith they should prove no disturbance. Our souls should be set on Jesus, who surpasses all these things – even the temple “adorned with precious stones” – and whose coming we should see clearly in our hearts. Is He not at work in you? Are you not His children? Then why fear these things which are “bound to happen” to the earth? You should “praise and exalt” Him who is “above all” with the “angels of the Lord” and the “heavens.” Let your hearts rise up to Him.
Yes, “the day will come when not one stone will be left upon another, but it will all be torn down.” And in that day the Lord will reign supreme. Set your sights upon His majesty.
O LORD, not one stone will be left upon another;
all will become as dust –
then shall come the eternal reign of your Son.
YHWH, your hand shall crush all things of this world; your right arm shall see to it that the gold and silver, the riches of the earth, all pass away. When your Son returns, all this shall be accomplished. Let us stand ready and waiting for that day.
Why should we fear, O LORD, the destruction of kingdoms? Why should we lament even the temple’s fall? For what is anything of this world in comparison to your glory? Your glory is indeed above earth and heaven and shall never pass away.
With the angels let us praise you, LORD. With all your disciples let us glorify your NAME. You alone are holy, you alone are worthy of praise, and this lesson we must learn if we are to be saved.
And so, on the day when there is not one stone left on another, let us not be anxious or afraid. Though wars and earthquakes come, let our hearts be set upon you, LORD, and exalt your kingdom as it draws nigh.
Sun, 24 November 2019
(Dn.1:1-6,8-20; Dn.3:52-56; Lk.21:1-4)
“To these four young men God gave knowledge
and proficiency in all literature and science,
and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.”
God is the giver of all good gifts; all is a gift from God. Whatever we give to Him can only seem paltry to Him “who look[s] into the depths from [His] throne upon the cherubim.” But He makes any gift we give, anything we do, great by His heavenly grace.
All our offerings are as the widow’s – but a couple of copper coins – even if we give vast wealth from our surplus. What is anything we offer in the sight of God, who owns the world and all that is in it, who sits “in the firmament of heaven”? So the size matters not. But when we give our paltry gift with a heart of faith, in answer to the love He gives us, how great our gift then becomes. For this He blesses. This He looks upon with favor. This He sees as He glances up; for it is the heart He looks upon and measures. It cannot but be that the widow gave her offering out of love, out of her deep faith in God. How could one become bereft of all riches if one did not believe in Him who surpasses all?
And is it not Daniel and the young men’s faith which God does bless with His gifts of wisdom and prudence? Because “Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine” sacrificed to his pagan gods, God first blesses him and his companions with exceptional health. Though they eat food that is poor as the widow’s offering, yet “they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table” – again, because all gifts, including that of health, are in God’s hands and not in the things themselves. And God’s gift of knowledge and understanding is a reward for their faith in Him as well; they give themselves to Him in obedience and He who holds all such light of wisdom in “the temple of [His] holy glory,” who is “exalted above all forever” – which the young men readily recognize – grants them His favors by His grace.
What gift have we to give? What paltry sum have we to offer? Let it be as the two fish the boy offered in faith and generosity to the Lord (Jn.6:9), and with it He will feed five thousand. Let it be as the two coins jangling in the widow’s pocket, and with it He will build a home for you in heaven. Let it be given in the faith of the four young men and God will bless it and reveal Himself at work in you.
O LORD, you provide, you take care…
let us not be afraid
but give ourselves entirely to your service.
YHWH, praiseworthy and exalted are you, glorious above all for all ages. And those who trust in you are truly blessed; you give them wealth and health – all wisdom comes from you. And though we may have but two copper coins, if we offer them to you, you will provide all we need in this world, and bring us to the riches of Heaven.
O let us be raised up with you, dear God! Let us join you on high where you dwell in glory. To your Temple let us come and before your throne let us bow. If so humbly we worship you, you shall sit us beside you.
Let us be in your service this day, our hearts set on doing your will alone, and we shall be blessed even before kings, even before the Son of Man. O LORD, help us to give all we have 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.
Fri, 22 November 2019
(1Mac.6:1-13; Ps.9:2-4,6,16,19; Lk.20:27-40)
“The needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
Death comes, yes. Death is upon us and surrounds us in this world. But the suffering we face in this life has its reward. Jesus has brought redemption: He has been resurrected, and we with Him. And this new life is eternal.
It seemed the Israelites were doomed. Antiochus had ruthlessly destroyed Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judah. All hope seemed lost. But hope was not lost, and today we read of the return of the people to Jerusalem in strength and the defeat and death of their enemy, the king. Now Antiochus has become “sick with grief because his designs ha[ve] failed.” Now he is “overwhelmed with sorrow” as he sees the evils he has committed overtake him and finds himself dying “in bitter grief, in a foreign land.” While in Jerusalem the Israelites celebrate and sing praise to God: “My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you.”
And now such redemption is made eternal in the Person of Jesus Christ. What was but human and temporal, the fall and rise of empires and of temples, now becomes divine, now becomes everlasting in the coming of the Messiah in the flesh of God. Yet with Him there is death – but after His crucifixion it shall be no more. Yet with Him is new life – but with His resurrection it has no end. Now “those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead… become like angels and are no longer liable to death.” In His death He destroys death: He makes it bereft of all power. In His rising He draws all into the eternal presence of the Father. Now “all are alive for Him.”
Brothers and sisters, may any “floods of sorrow” which afflict us now because of our sins or by the oppression of our persecutors not overwhelm us in this day. Let our sins be nailed to the cross with Him who is our salvation, and our hope of overcoming all the scourges of the evil one be made strong in the surpassing light of His glorious rising. With David let us “declare all [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds,” and our enemies will be left speechless.
(I must note today that the city named for this evil king – Antioch – would soon become the place where the followers of Christ were called “Christians” for the first time; and that the seat of the state which would next oppress the people of God – Rome – is now the place from which the Chair of Peter reigns. How God’s redeeming Hand does work.)
O LORD, in Heaven we shall be as angels;
let us not be weighed down by the cares of this earth.
YHWH, turn back our enemies, we pray, the sins that grieve us in this dark place. Let us not in exile die, but by your grace come to new life.
O LORD, how we long for the day when we will no more be liable to death. Like the angels of Heaven let us be; in the age to come let us make our home, leaving behind the vestiges of this vain world.
For all we have done or spoken against you, let us be forgiven, O LORD. From all the evils we have committed in Jerusalem, let us be washed clean. Make your City holy this day, that to your NAME we might sing praise.
Build up the walls round about us, dear God, that we might be protected from all the attacks of the enemy. Give us arms to defend ourselves from their snares, and we shall declare your wondrous deeds. O let us rise again with your Son!
Thu, 21 November 2019
(1Mac.4:36-37,52-59; 1Chr.29:10-13; Lk.19:45-48)
“Let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”
In both our reading and gospel today, we hear of the cleansing of the temple, and we see its purpose and fulfillment.
“My house is meant for a house of prayer,” declares Jesus. A house of prayer, and a house for teaching: “He was teaching in the temple area from day to day.” It is a house of music, for by the Israelites after the Maccabean revolution it “was reconsecrated with songs, harps, lutes, and cymbals.” It is a place for humility: “All the people prostrated themselves…” and worship: “…and adored and praised Heaven.” Praise is most fitting for the house of the Lord, for His holy temple, for it is this which unites us with our God. When we sing of His greatness – “Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory. For all in heaven and on earth is yours” – we are joined to Him who is “exalted as head over all.” For in proclaiming the truth of His “power and might” over all, we ourselves are cleansed and become as temples of the Lord, holy and radiant as gold.
“The entire populace was listening to Him and hanging on His words.” To whom did the people listen but the Temple itself? What was begun by the Maccabee brothers is accomplished in Jesus. It had long been the hope and desire of the Israelites, and indeed the longing of all mankind, to have a holy place to worship God, to offer sacrifice to Him who is the greatest love of all hearts. And now He stands before them, now He speaks to them. And He effects the renewal of the temple not so much by His “ejecting the traders” who had made it “a den of thieves,” as by His presence in their midst. For the temple exists not so much in the walls adorned “with gold crowns and shields” as in the flesh of Christ; and it is this Temple we become when we follow Him, when we hear and heed the words which issue forth like a cleansing stream from these sacred lips and heart, and when we eat His body and drink His blood.
The destruction of this Temple will come. Even now the leaders of the people are “looking for a way to destroy Him.” But in three days the Temple will be rebuilt and dedicated forever in perfect purity for all who desire to enter there.
O LORD, purify our hearts
that we might rejoice in your Temple,
our prayer ever rising up to you.
YHWH, may your Temple be cleansed that we might offer true worship to you here in your Church. Let all souls be purified by your Son and by His sacrifice, that your children might sing your praise forever. From eternity to eternity you are exalted, you are the Most High – O let us freely bless your holy NAME!
O LORD, may we know the great blessing of falling prostrate before you who are God. May we find the grace of adoring you alone. May we ever be in prayer in your holy House, and so become holy ourselves in your eternal presence.
Let your sanctuary be purified; let it be dedicated to you, dear God. Let all that is sinful be cast from us by your Son that we might indeed be blessed to be as He is; listening always to His teaching and obeying His every word, let us become a House of prayer for you.
Wed, 20 November 2019
(1Mac.2:15-29; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15,23; Lk.19:41-44)
“We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”
The king of heaven shall soon come into the city of peace, humble and riding on an ass, but today He weeps as He sees Jerusalem and knows of its imminent destruction for its sins. Yet He shall ride into Jerusalem, yet He shall be dragged within its walls… and the death He proclaims upon all its children, He Himself shall know, He Himself shall undergo, that there may be means of escape for us all, for all who turn from the prince of this world and his seduction and seek to remain true to the commands of our God.
The persecution of the Jews some two hundred years before Christ’s own we continue to hear of in our reading from Maccabees: “The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.” And though many go over to the enemy, Mattathias and his sons remain faithful, remain true to the Lord. Great is their zeal in the face of the threat and in the sight of the ways of the evil one. And flee the city and its abominations Mattathias did with all the righteous, to make a home apart in the desert. For he recognizes the time of visitation and the destruction of faith upon his city and his people; he has not “completely lost” vision of “the path to peace” but remains faithful even in time of persecution.
“Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in, and press you hard from every side,” Jesus prophesies as He weeps over Jerusalem. He wishes not to see the persecution come, nor to have to die Himself. But the people do not recognize with their hearts the love He offers forth… and so what can He do but die; and so what can they know but destruction. But His sacrifice shall prove redemptive for those who turn; a place in the desert He shall prepare for those who desire to be holy, to be set apart from the wickedness of this race.
“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” and His “faithful ones” gather before Him. In their praise of His glory they fulfill their “vows to the Most High” and so the king of this world holds no power over them. In the New Jerusalem with the risen Lord they live, beyond the destruction of the old.
O LORD, you will come to visit your people;
let us flee the sin of this world or we will be destroyed.
YHWH, it is better for us to dwell in a desert apart if it means we can remain with you. Better for us to leave all our possessions behind than to be enslaved by the silver and gold and many gifts this world offers to those who abandon their faith. Let us remain steadfast with you and fight always for what is just in your sight.
Days will soon come when there will not be one stone left on another. Indeed, our enemies come to encircle us and close in upon us. But we need not fear the darkness, the powers of this dying age. For with you, O LORD, we are strong, stronger than death itself. Let us ever offer a holy sacrifice to you; forever let us praise your NAME.
Jesus weeps for the blindness of the people to His presence among us. They hear Him not as He speaks and summons them to the kingdom. Let us not be so blind and deaf, dear LORD, but obey your every word, and we shall be rescued.
Tue, 19 November 2019
(2Mac.7:1,20-31; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; Lk.19:11-28)
“He, in His mercy, will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of His Law.”
When the Lord returns “crowned as king” He will call all before Himself and judge each according to the profit he has made with his life. If we are like the seven brothers who suffered and died for the faith, if we have been like the good servants who invested wisely the gifts left with them by the Lord, we shall come into His reign. If we have wasted His talents or, God forbid, have persecuted, as Antiochus – who “contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews” – those who strive with the Lord to remain faithful to His call, we “will not escape the hands of God.” He will come to judge; in justice He is known.
“On waking, I shall be content in your presence,” sings David in our psalm, expressing the hope of those whose “steps have been steadfast” in the paths of God. And how this hope in the coming kingdom is embodied by the seven brothers with their mother “who were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king” – how well they presage the suffering and death of Jesus, and the sword which pierces His mother’s heart. The mother’s words are particularly beautiful and wise as she witnesses to her sons that she was not the author of their lives: “It was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed,” thus stirring them to faith in “the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning” and holds the life of all in His hands. Hear her words of exhortation to faith spoken to her youngest son: “I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things.” And so she encourages him to “accept death, so that in the time of mercy [she] may receive [him] again.” Here, certainly, is our faith in essence. Here the hope we have in the Lord is lived.
The Lord has gone from us to the “faraway country” of heaven to receive His kingship and return for our souls. He has left with each of His servants gifts for the time of waiting. Today He and His heavenly kingdom are not far away for He is very present in His Church, in her priests and the sacraments, in the Word of God revealed to us, in the sky upon which we gaze to see His handiwork… in all things we know Him and for all our needs He provides. Let us not be afraid to live with Him and so to die for Him, to disregard our very lives in the employment of His talents… and the breath and life we do so cherish shall be ours forever in heaven.
O LORD, Jesus goes to the Cross, but He shall return;
He shall return and judge the souls of all.
YHWH, your Son has gone from us to a faraway land, to your side in the kingdom of Heaven. And if we wish to join Him there, we must employ well the talents He leaves us now in His stead. We must be willing to lay down our lives as He has done if we are to enter into His reign in the time of mercy.
O may your Son come to us even this day, dear LORD! May we know His presence among us in the gifts and graces He leaves us in His sacraments and in His Word. And may we work each day to increase their yield upon this earth, until He returns in glory.
Soon He shall return and we must stand strong in the face of death and torture, before the evils contrived by the hands of men. For you, O LORD, who made the heavens and the earth shall reward every man who gives witness to your love. We shall wake in your presence; breath and life will be ours in your eternal kingdom.
Mon, 18 November 2019
(2Mac.6:18-31; Ps.3:2-8; Lk.19:1-10)
“I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.”
Zacchaeus’ running up ahead and climbing a tree in order to be able to see Jesus as He passed along the way may not be a witness on the order of Eleazar, who “declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God” and went willingly to torture and death, “leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation,” but the same faith inspired both. And perhaps this wealthy man giving half of his belongings to the poor does approach the heroism of Eleazar.
The principal figures in both our reading and gospel today indeed give witness to the faith in the salvation which Jesus has come to bring to all our houses. And both reflect the strength needed to overcome the myriad of obstacles set in our paths. “O Lord, how many are my adversaries!” David cries in our psalm. “Many rise up against me!” Eleazar is threatened by the systematic persecution of his faith and his people by the pagan king and his minions, but in the face of “the instrument of torture” this noble old man tells his persecutors “to send him at once to the abode of the dead,” for he would not bring “shame and dishonor” on himself nor lead the people astray by giving in to an unlawful act. And in our gospel Zacchaeus finds himself surrounded by the murmuring crowd accusing him of being a sinner. But he stands his ground in the face of this persecution, justified or not, and proves himself worthy to be at the side of Jesus.
“The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” It is His desire to bring us to salvation. Yet if we do not seek Him, He will not find us. If we do not call to Him, He will not hear us. And if we do not stand our ground and give witness to Him when put to the test for our faith, He cannot stand with us.
Temptations must necessarily come. We cannot escape persecution. But we must not listen to those who say, “There is no salvation for him in God.” We must remember that God stands with us if we stand with Him, and that it is just such as us He has come to save.
O LORD, help us to stand strong in your NAME
in the face of persecution;
let us endure all with you.
YHWH, our adversaries surround us on every side saying there is no salvation for us in God because of our sins against you, or because they doubt your existence. Thus the darkness closes in upon us, the wickedness of this evil place. But standing with you we are saved. When we call on your NAME, when we climb the tree of life, your holy mountain, to gaze on your face, you are there to receive our souls: though we die we shall wake with you.
Why should we be afraid, LORD, though myriads of people are arrayed against us, though they threaten us with torture and death? Even if our sins should accuse us, even if rightly we should be condemned, yet your Son comes to seek us out and redeem us from condemnation to stand with Him in your kingdom. O let Him come to our house this day! and with Him let us remain faithful till the end.
Sun, 17 November 2019
(1Mac.1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63; Ps.119:53,61,88,134,150,155,158; Lk.18:35-43)
“Terrible affliction was upon Israel.”
Oh how the nation had become so blind. Oh how they had turned from their God. Some “preferred to die rather than be defiled with unclean food or to profane the covenant,” but most ate freely of the poisonous fruit of the tree of abomination, and so became as the blind man begging by the side of the road – so spiritually bereft were they.
Our reading from Maccabees tells of a terrible time of persecution upon the Israelite nation less than two hundred years before the coming of Christ, and it shows that that persecution comes from within the community itself, as “men who were breakers of the law” sought alliance with the Gentiles and their pagan worship, thinking so foolishly that this would bring them blessing and comfort. How readily “they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.” And the date is given here when “the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of holocausts,” signifying Israel’s complete turn from God and His laws to the vain worship of false gods.
Our psalm speaks repeatedly of “the snares of the wicked,” “the oppression of men,” the “malicious persecutors,” the “sinners,” the “apostates” who turn from the law and attempt to “twine” others about in their evil. This is man’s sin from the beginning – attempting to form God of his own hands, refusing to be obedient to the ways the loving Father has imparted for his salvation, for his blessing. Man gives himself over to the lusts of this world and the imagination of a proud mind, and through such exaltation of self finds himself soon lost in the confusion that such vanity can only bring. But in the meantime he persecutes the just who hold to the way of truth; for a while he fools himself by the glamour of his idols. But soon the blindness sets in, and soon the salvation of the just shall come.
If we are in affliction because of the persecution of this world of sin that surrounds and closes in, we should consider ourselves blessed; this affliction is proof of our faith, and upon it the Lord looks with favor. If we are afflicted with the blindness of the nations wrought by our wallowing in sin, we’d best cry out to the Lord as He passes us on the way to Jerusalem. He will hear us and He will stop, if we are persistent in our cries. And it is so that our faith will make us whole. Let us find our sight by the intercession of Christ and “giving God the glory” begin “to follow Him,” whatever cross may await us.
O LORD, woe to those who forsake your law! –
let them cry out to you with full voice
that they may be saved.
YHWH, how blind we have become, turning from your law, from your holy ways, to worship the false and empty gods of the nations. O may your Son turn to us and have pity this day that we might see His goodness before us and follow Him to the New Jerusalem. Let us not be counted among those who forsake your Law and profane your Temple; let us rather die than break your Covenant.
By the side of the road we sit and cry for all the afflictions our sin has brought upon us. What hope have we, O LORD, of being taken from this dark place, how could we escape the snares of the wicked round about us, if your Son did not stop and call us to Himself, if He did not come into the midst of the darkness to save us.
Glory to you, O God, and to you alone, for your promise you have not forgotten. From all evil keep us safe.
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.
Fri, 15 November 2019
(Ws.18:14-16,19:6-9; Ps.105:2-3,5,36-37,42-43; Lk.18:1-8)
“He led forth His people with joy;
with shouts of joy, His chosen ones.”
“They beheld stupendous wonders.” Before their eyes, “out of what had been water, dry land was seen emerging.” And so, sheltered by the mighty hand of the Lord, they crossed over, from the land of bondage to freedom. And in their joy “they ranged about like horses, and bounded about like lambs…” praising the Lord, “their deliverer.”
This is the story of our own salvation; this is the way of our own redemption from the sin which holds us bound on this earthly plane. Our exodus, too, must come. The Lord shall return to earth. As He was faithful in leading the Israelites forth from the land of Egypt, where they had been slaves four hundred years, so He will not forget us who have been in the bonds of Satan upon this plane. Our deliverance, too, will come.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, God will “do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night.” He will not “delay long over them” but will “give them swift justice.” The vision of the Israelites at the Red Sea will be our own. Before our eyes we will see the dry land appearing. We shall rejoice at the Lord’s hand guiding our steps out of this dark land. “An unimpeded road” we shall travel, moving toward His promised land. Yes, heaven will be ours. The first-born of Satan, the flower of his evil, shall be destroyed in the stillness of the night, and truth and goodness and light will emerge victorious; and we shall be led forth, as it were, “laden with silver and gold,” rejoicing in the abundant blessings of our Lord and God.
He does not delay. He will not delay. We wait, yes, and struggle with our faith… but He is ready – He does not have to be asked twice. But as our hearts are weakened by sin, we must be encouraged, we must continue to pray, always, even in the face of darkness. Through the darkness the Lord’s light shall come shining, if we remain faithful in our cries. So, “sing to Him, sing His praise… O hearts that seek the Lord!” for He is near in all our prayers, and shall lead us forth into His blessed kingdom. Alleluia!
O LORD, your justice is swift
but who is there that calls out to you,
that desires your hand at work in his life?
YHWH, what marvels you have worked for us; for we who were overshadowed by sin, who seemed trapped by its darkness, abandoned to its clutches, have been mightily delivered from sure death and destruction to stand with you in your kingdom. And should we now have no faith in you? Should we fail to cry out to you for secure protection? Will your justice not come quickly to us, whom you so love and for whom you so desire salvation?
O LORD, let us not be so foolish as to doubt your good will toward us and your power to save us; let us not forget the wonders you have performed for us even to this day. And what greater wonders await those who hope in you! For the dry land we shall soon stand upon when your Son returns, when He has overshadowed our enemies and redeemed us from all darkness, shall be the Promised Land of Heaven.
O praise you, LORD! Your people glory in your holy NAME.
Thu, 14 November 2019
(Ws.13:1-9; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.17:26-37)
“Wherever the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.”
It is so that “the heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” It is true that “from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.” Yes, “the things seen are fair,” and speak even of the glory of our God… but they shall indeed all come to naught when He alone stands before us on the last day.
In the created world we exist. To an extent, in the created world we take refuge, discerning the hand of God at work in the things around us and coming by way of the knowledge presented to us in their beauty and wonder to that Hand which has created all. And so they can be beneficial to us. And so they can help to reveal God’s presence to us who are so blind. But both the warning of our reading from Wisdom and Christ’s own words in the gospel must be heeded: we cannot make “fire,” “wind,” or “mighty water” our gods; and we cannot be attached to our possessions. For these things of nature, as great as God has made them, and these things at our disposal, as much a blessing they may be to us for our time on earth, are passing away. Only God remains.
Brothers and sisters, we must look upon the stars of heaven, we must see the signs wrought in our midst… but we cannot be distracted by them from the God who made them. We must eat and drink, we must take husbands and wives… but we cannot get drunk or live in lust, allowing the earthly to overcome our spirits. Lot’s wife turned to see what she’d left behind; she longed to return to her possessions and the carnal life of Sodom. Unable to understand or accept the grace of the angel of God who was leading her forth to a safer and more glorious land, she was turned to salt – all of worth was taken from her; only the carcass remained.
The day shall come when all we see shall be destroyed. And so, how important it is that our hearts not be set on all we see, else we shall be destroyed with it. Though with utmost respect we treat this world and even find joy in its beauty, we must ever keep in mind that its beauty is passing and is only significant if it leads to the eternal beauty of heaven.
O LORD, we must discern the signs of the times,
for your Son will soon return
and we will have to leave all things behind.
YHWH, the heavens declare your glory to all, but do we upon earth hear the angels’ voices? Do we take their message of your beauty and wonder and power to heart, or do we lose ourselves in these things and pass away as they do? For the things in the heavens and those upon the earth, though blessed to find your voice resounding in them, soon turn to dust – only your kingdom remains. Will we stand with you on the last Day?
Soon your Son shall come and fully reveal your glory shining in our midst. Soon He will be here to carry us to Heaven. But will we be ready to travel with Him, or will our souls be dead and empty as a carcass? Will we turn back to the things of the earth and so be turned to salt, or place our faith in Him alone and so fly unto your presence? Let us not be lost in the things we see, O LORD, but raise our minds to look upon that which passes not away. Let us come to you.
Wed, 13 November 2019
(Ws.7:22-8:1; Ps.119:89-91,130,135,175; Lk.17:20-25)
“Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.”
Wisdom, who “is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars… reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.” Wisdom “penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity,” for she is “the refulgence of eternal light.” How like the Lord she is, He whose coming “day will be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other” and yet whose reign is “already in [our] midst.” How we are filled with understanding when this light which “endures forever,” which “is firm as the heavens,” shines upon our simple minds, leading us to the grace of eternal glory.
Wisdom we need, brothers and sisters. The Lord’s Word must be with us. “For there is naught God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.” Else we shall be as those who “go running about excitedly” at every report of the Lord’s being “here” or “there,” at every proclamation of the end being near. The end is here; it is now the Son of Man “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age.” The Lord has come, and so “the reign of God is already in [our] midst.” Its fulfillment we shall not discern by “careful watching,” by setting our sights on the things of the earth, but only with the “intelligent, pure, and very subtle” spirit of Wisdom. She alone teaches us of the kingdom, for she alone is “the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of His goodness.” Without her purity, our minds are dimmed. Without her surpassing light, we cannot but be blind. She alone knows, she alone leads holy souls into the truth of His presence. All words lacking her light are but vain speculation, which shall come to naught, which shall fall to the earth from which they are derived. Heaven alone is lasting.
Have we the light of Wisdom directing our thoughts and actions, brothers and sisters? Is her purity set firmly within us? Will we then stand on the day the lightning flashes, on the day the glory of the Lord is revealed? Do we carry that glory now within us? If not, let us turn to Wisdom, and she will teach us. Like a mother who cares for her children she will be. And led to the presence of the Lord we will be, where we will find our peace. Let us not fail to take her gentle yoke upon our shoulders; let the cross of Christ and the light of the coming kingdom be ever our guide.
O LORD, your Son is in our midst
most especially in His Cross,
and it is through His Cross
Wisdom shines most brightly.
YHWH, let the Spirit of Wisdom fill us, your Holy Spirit pass into us and make us as your prophets. Let us speak only your Word in all we do, moving ever with the One who is beyond all motion – intelligent, holy, and pure let us be. Without the light of Wisdom our lives shall be as nothing in your sight; let your countenance shine upon us.
Your reign is coming by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is now already in our midst. Not relegated to space or time, it is not readily perceived by the mind of man – he cannot put his finger upon it or control it in any way. All we can do is desire your presence with us, LORD, that when the lightning flashes in your eternal sky, we will stand firm with you who endure forever, and with your Son.
Give us your light, dear God, that we might be established well in your glorious kingdom.
Tue, 12 November 2019
(Ws.6:1-11; Ps.82:3-4,6-8; Lk.17:11-19)
“Stand up and go your way;
your faith has been your salvation.”
“This man was a Samaritan.” Jesus chose the lowest of the low, not only a leper, the most ostracized of all individuals, but a Samaritan, a foreigner most despised by the Israelite nation, to reveal His mercy, to reveal the universal nature of His forgiveness, and so the universal call to salvation. He demonstrates that all may have faith in Him, and that it is for us to call all to Him.
Many are given power on this earth, power which was far from the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus. And Wisdom makes clear the responsibility that comes with that authority, the manner in which that judgment placed in the hands of princes must be effected. For the Lord shall hold accountable all to whom power is given; He shall “probe [their] works and scrutinize [their] counsels.” And if they keep not His law and “walk according to the will of God,” great as the power given them shall be their punishment. “For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy,” as was the leper in our gospel today, “but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.”
I find it rather frightening to hear that “for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends,” for, brothers and sisters, we are all given a measure of power by the Lord, and so all shall be held responsible for their gifts. It can make us quake in our shoes to think that we are answerable to God, to the all-powerful Lord of the universe, for all we do. Do we “keep the holy precepts” well? Will we “have ready a response” when He stands before us, when He inquires of our actions? If we desire His words, we know that He will instruct us, but how can we who are so human and sinful be as faithful as we need to be? Our psalm warns us: “You are gods, all of you sons of the Most High” – we are all gifted greatly by our God to be as His children – “yet like men you shall die, and fall like any prince…” yet oh how human we are, how subject to the elements of sin and death.
What shall we do? Our psalm indicates what our actions should be: “Defend the lowly and the fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.” And the blessed leper in our gospel reveals the attitude we should have toward our Lord: “He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and spoke His praises.” If we think ourselves any better than he or do anything differently, we shall not hear the Lord calling us to rise and go forth – we shall not find our salvation. Let us demonstrate our faith and the grace at work within us.
O LORD, you raise the lowly who call to you,
but the wicked who turn their faces from your presence
you cut down.
YHWH, the lowly and the poor you raise up, so let us fall on our face before you. Like the leper let us know and remember that only by your Son are we made whole; only by you do we have life at all. Whatever power we may have in this world comes only from you, and we shall be answerable for it.
You scrutinize all matters, LORD, for your eye sees all things. The haughty soul does not escape your glance but shall be brought to judgment for the evil in his heart and at his hands. If we desire to find blessing from you, to come into your presence in the kingdom, how humble we must be and faithful in your service.
We are all made princes by your grace upon us. Though we come from dust you breathe the breath of life into us and so form us in your image. And in your image we must remain, to it we must return, O LORD. Without your wisdom to lead us, how terribly we shall be judged. Save us from such a deadly fate, and we shall sing your praise.
Mon, 11 November 2019
(Ws.2:23-3:9; Ps.34:2-3,16-19; Lk.17:7-10)
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.”
What does the Lord mean when He instructs us in our gospel to say, “We are useless servants,” than that which David says in our psalm, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves,” and that which the Book of Wisdom states in our first reading: “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself”? For though we who serve Christ seem to be dead in the judgment of this world, and the laying down of our lives in service of Christ – who died upon the cross quite freely – seems to be nothing but “utter destruction,” yet we know that it is precisely this death in Christ which brings life… and in His hands we shall be blessed.
“The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.” Yet “when the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress He rescues them.” Yes, “those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with Him in love: because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with His elect.” And “they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.” For they have given their service to the One who rules the universe, and so in His service they shall remain – death shall have no power over them. If “God formed man to be imperishable” and made him “the image of His own nature,” what shall touch those who serve Him, who treasure that image of God upon them? How shall they die?
“We have done no more than our duty.” This is the bottom line of our time on earth. And the accomplishment of our duty, the fulfillment of the Lord’s Word at work in our hearts, is all that is needed to bring us to eternal life. And though it is not His obligation, though certainly no reward is due us who have but carried out the orders of our superior, the Lord will say to us in His grace on that day, “Come and sit down at table.” And we shall sup with Him eternally, His gracious hand upon us for good.
Brothers and sisters, forget not your call to serve Him, to lay down your lives before Him, and He shall not neglect to hear you now, and to give you life eternal. Keep your “hope full of immortality” even “as gold in the furnace” your mettle is proven this day, and the day of the Lord shall be yours, when all torment shall have fled away.
O LORD, we are indeed useless servants,
but you greatly bless those who serve you.
YHWH, death is upon us this day, you know. But we who are joined to the Cross of your Son are not touched by it: from death you save your faithful servants. Whatever power the devil has to threaten us with our sins and the death that comes from them has been destroyed by the sacrifice of Jesus. And so, we who humble ourselves with Him will be blessed in your kingdom.
When we cry out to you, dear LORD, you are quick to save us; near indeed you are to the brokenhearted. Though our spirits be crushed by the travails of this life, you raise them to your presence. And so, what can we do but glory in your NAME? What can we do but look forward to that day when we shall sit at your table?
O LORD, let us be purified of all dross by the affliction we suffer in union with your only Son. Remade in His image, into your peace let us come, dwelling in immortality.
Sun, 10 November 2019
(Wis.1:1-7; Ps.139:1-10,24; Lk.17:1-6)
“Where can I hide from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?”
Yes, “wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemous of his guilty lips.” For the spirit of the Lord is everywhere and hears everything, listening closely to a man’s inmost thoughts. “For the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says.” And so it is that David sings, “If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there, too.” How could we escape His encircling Hand and His omnipresent justice if, as David says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all”? And so, in heaven He is present to raise us to glory; but in hell, His presence condemns our sin.
We cannot sin, brothers and sisters. If we do, we shall not escape His hand. It cannot but be that the Lord condemns all evil, for “into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not,” and what hope have we of life if the spirit of wisdom guides us not? Indeed, we must “seek Him in integrity of heart.” Yes, justice must be our love, and wisdom our treasure. This alone will bring us unto heaven. If our counsels are perverse and we cause sin to occur, leading others astray by our unjust words and actions, the Lord makes quite clear our fate in our gospel today: “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.” And there is a “little one” in ourselves, whom only the Lord – who probes our heart and mind – knows, and whom we condemn to destruction by our sin.
Rather, we must have faith. We must forgive others and have an abiding faith in Him, Jesus tells us. This faith will manifest itself in the great works done in His name, and in our following Him simply day to day. With such faith we cannot be shaken. Holding such faith, the light shining upon our souls by Him who sees all will purify us for the coming of His kingdom.
What can we say, brothers and sisters? The Lord hears us. Where can we go? He is with us. Either for evil because of our turning away, or for our good by our turning to Him, the Lord is ever present. It must be our desire to come to Him, in wisdom and in justice, in forgiveness and in faith… and hell we shall avoid as gratefully into His glory we fly, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O LORD, you see us and the sin we commit,
and so we must turn to you for forgiveness.
YHWH, your Spirit fills the world; wherever we may go, you are present. We cannot escape your light, and should we try, we would but find ourselves in hell. You hear every word we speak: our inmost selves are exposed to your eye. We must but believe in your love, and Wisdom will be with us as guide.
But how difficult we make the path to faith. How ready we are to listen to senseless and perverse counsels and so disbelieve you. As easily as Eve we fall, O LORD. May we know your just rebuke of our sins that we might find repentance and taste your forgiveness upon our souls.
O let us not fight against you, dear God! but work always and only for the salvation of all, for the recognition of your eternal glory present in our midst by the Spirit come through your only Son. And so with you let us dwell.
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.
Thu, 7 November 2019
(Rm.15:14-21; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.16:1-8)
“The worldly take more initiative than the otherworldly
when it comes to dealing with their own kind.”
What is the Lord teaching His disciples? What does He wish to tell them of their call? We need only look at the Apostle Paul, for here is a man, a child of God, who has taken the initiative the Lord would see wrought in us all.
Our first reading indeed speaks clearly of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Not only has he covered a vast measure of the globe (particularly for that time), but his intense initiative is seen most acutely in his never going “to preach in places where Christ’s name was already known”; rather, “they who received no word of Him” became Paul’s audience. A greater example of taking initiative in the Spirit of Christ to bring His light to the world perhaps will never be known.
But it is required of all of us. We are not free to revel in complacency because Paul has been so industrious. It is still true that the Lord must make His salvation known “in the sight of the nations,” and it is still so that we Christians of the Church militant have the responsibility to see that the Lord’s work is accomplished. Each of us is called to take a measure of initiative, is gifted by God with the responsibility of bringing a portion of His kingdom to light – in our own way, in our own time… but invariably the call is there and must be answered. All must fulfill their role in salvation history before it can be truly and completely proclaimed: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.”
The devious employee’s heart was set thoroughly on the business at his hands, and he used his business wisdom, his worldly savvy, to save his skin. Where is our spiritual savvy? Where is the employment of our spiritual wisdom and insight to the salvation of others’ souls, and our own? “I can take glory in Christ Jesus for the work I have done for God,” Paul says quite freely. Are we able to say the same? Let us work industriously and with initiative to bring the spiritual kingdom to fulfillment. By God’s grace, let the Spirit come.
O LORD, let us do all we can to bring your Word
to the world.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of your Son, but we must carry that truth to the ends of the world, even as the Apostle Paul.
We cannot sit on our hands, dear LORD; we must not dissipate your grace. Rather, let us readily preach your Gospel in all we think, do, and say. Then we will be pleasing in your sight, and all souls will be drawn into your presence.
O LORD, to your children you have granted complete knowledge of your ways and made them able to serve your kingdom. In the power of your Spirit let us go forth to see that all peoples are consecrated to you.
Let all souls sing a new song to your NAME; let all praise your goodness to us, LORD. From your work let us never turn away until we stand with you on your holy Day.
Wed, 6 November 2019
(Rm.14:7-12; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Lk.15:1-10)
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Since “every one of us will have to give an account of himself before God,” who are we to “sit in judgment” or “look down on” a brother? Why are our eyes set upon others’ sins instead of the Lord’s glory? Why do we fall into this pit of condemnation?
Yes, Jesus welcomes sinners. For this has He come. How blessed are we that He makes such “a diligent search” to retrieve our souls from the grave of sin; how blessed are we when He finds us and puts us “on His shoulders in jubilation.” In this forgiveness should we glory. In this grace we should praise the Lord, and seek to help others come to such blessing. But do we blind ourselves to the grace at work in our souls by setting our sights on the sins of others rather than the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ? Are we as judgmental as the Pharisees and as those Paul warns today against condemnation of others?
Brothers and sisters, we should rather be with David in his psalm and seek “to dwell in the house of the Lord” forever, and set our “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple”; we must not let our sights fall from heaven to earth and so lose ourselves in the judgment of others’ sin. This is the great danger. This is the devil’s temptation: “Look at him,” he says, “see how evil he is.” If he cannot get us to believe it about ourselves and so lose hope of redemption for our souls, he attempts to distract us with the sins of others, and so achieve the same ends. We must realize that “both in life and death we are the Lord’s,” that He loves us and desires our salvation, and that He loves and desires the salvation of all our neighbors. And so we must come to Him, take refuge in Him and in His love and forgiveness, and then we will “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” and not die a miserable death.
Brothers and sisters, let each of us be that “repentant sinner” over whom the angels of God rejoice. The Lord welcomes us though we are sinners. Let us not forget His grace. And let us welcome others.
O LORD, let me be that one repentant sinner
you find and place upon your shoulders –
come to me even this day.
YHWH, it is your great joy to see the repentance of the sinner, and so your Son has come among us to invite us to such grace. And if we are your friends, will we not rejoice with you? If all of Heaven rejoices at the conversion of the poor lost sinner, we show ourselves not to be of you, not to be of Heaven, if instead we look down upon our brother. O save us from such a miserable fate!
We all must bend the knee before your Son; we all shall have to appear before your judgment seat and give an account of our lives. And is any of us without sin, except your Son’s dear Mother? Then we must know that to dwell in your House, to contemplate your face, we all require your blessed forgiveness, LORD, that without it we will be left standing outside your gates. And so, let us praise you for your goodness to us, and to others. Let all souls be found rejoicing in your kingdom.
Tue, 5 November 2019
(Rm.13:8-10; Ps.112:1-2,4-5,9; Lk.14:25-33)
“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus tells us, “None of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions,” turning our backs even on father and mother, even on our very selves. Our psalm states of the happy man, “Lavishly he gives to the poor; his generosity shall endure forever.” And Paul makes clear that we “owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
What is this love? Where is this generous spirit? How do we renounce all our possessions? In the cross of Christ we find our call. The cross of Christ means giving all, means laying down our lives for the Lord and our neighbor – the cross of Christ is love itself at work in this world in the death of self and the finding of the grace and the love of God in heaven.
Jesus wishes that you be sure about this. He desires that you understand what is required of you – your very life, your absolute love. Nothing short of total sacrifice will do; we must be entirely whole, utterly holy, to enter His gates, to follow Him into glory. This is greater and more significant than any war, than any project conceived by the mind of man, for it is our eternal soul that is at stake, whose weight cannot compare to even all the world. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We all have a cross graciously placed upon our shoulders by our loving Lord to make us one with Him in His redemptive suffering and death, to make us one with Him in such utter love. How will we find heaven if we do not love? How do we come to that place which is only of love if we do not give ourselves to love completely?
“How can I do this?” you say. “The Lord asks too much.” You must remember that it is only love He asks of you, and that it is His cross you carry – He who is only of love – and so He carries your cross with you, making it ever so sweet and light. Do you think the saints feared to die in the name of Christ? Do you think they shrank back even in the face of torture? None of this has any significance to the soul who is set on Christ; and without Christ a hangnail can seem overwhelming.
Love, brothers and sisters. It is simple as that. Love. Not this world, but His heart, His sacrifice, His cross. And you will see all brought to life before you; and you will find joy in your soul.
O LORD, what a beautiful invitation to love
is Jesus’ call to carry our cross with Him!
for He is only love,
and what can we find but love if we follow Him –
and who will we then not truly love?
YHWH, teach us of your way of love, embodied so perfectly in your Son, that we might give ourselves as generously as He to all those we find in need. Help us to give up all things, to renounce our possessions, to turn our backs even on friends and family that we might truly love them and so teach them of your surpassing love.
O how sweet is the Cross your Son would impart to all His followers! What light it gives to the world. If with willing heart we lend to others, expecting nothing in return, how blessed are we to thus share in your love! Love is all that matters; it is the fulfillment of your Law, O LORD. And we find it in the Cross.
Jesus gives so lavishly to us poor souls, we who are so poor in spirit. Nothing have we to offer in return, dear God, but the sacrifice of our lives. May this poor offering be acceptable to you.
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.
Tue, 29 October 2019
(Rm.8:26-30; Ps.13:4-6; Lk.13:22-30)
“Lord, are they few in number who are to be saved?”
We question. We wonder. With the man who spoke to the Lord as He made His way toward Jerusalem, as He approached His own death, we question Jesus, “Who will be saved?” particularly as we face our own imminent death. Jesus answers the man, and so He responds to us, too. His answer is simple: “Come in through the narrow door.” His answer is wise, and comes with, and itself is, a warning to us not to take for granted the salvation by our God but to be diligent about our striving toward His kingdom, to be purposeful about our dying for Him. Those who walked with Him may have thought that this alone would be sufficient to ensure their entrance into heaven. But simply knowing Him, seeing Him, and even eating with Him will not do: He must know us. He must see us about His work as we see Him about the Father’s work – He must come in and eat with us, nourishing our souls with His daily bread of labor in His Name, of life in His Word.
Brothers and sisters, we may come to His table every day. We may eat of His Body and drink of His Blood and hear His Word proclaimed to our ears; we may be members of His Church, sitting here in these pews; we may have since birth been graced with the blessings of the sacraments and teaching of our Catholic faith – but this alone does not assure our entering into heaven. We must live that faith. We must put flesh and blood to our belief. There is no other way we can be saved, because this is our life and our life is required of us by God. It will not magically occur at the moment of death if we have not spent our lives for Him.
O brothers and sisters, we must cry out with David, “Give light to my eyes that I may not sleep in death.” We must sing to the Lord with him, “Let my heart rejoice in your salvation.” We must seek Him, seek His life, with all our hearts, that the prophetic words of Paul might become our own, that our predestination “to share the image of His Son” the Father might accomplish in us. For the Lord does call us, and we must respond. As we respond, we shall be justified – He shall enter in and cleanse us of our sin. And remaining on this path of justification we shall soon find glory with God in His eternal kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, let the will of the Lord be accomplished in us. In our moments of doubt, when we have no words with which to come to God, let us turn to the Spirit who “intercedes for the saints as God Himself wills,” “with groanings which cannot be expressed in speech.” He truly is our help in weakness. He truly is our guard on this perilous journey. Only remaining with Him and in His Church do we find comfort in the knowledge that we are to be saved.
O LORD, call us unto your kingdom
that with your Son we might be glorified –
let us embrace the Cross as we make our way to you.
YHWH, send your Spirit to help us in our weakness; hear us as we cry out to you. In our lives let your will be accomplished, that with your Son we might be glorified. You lead us forth in your goodness – may we be obedient to the promptings of our heart.
Within us you place your Spirit, LORD; to our ears come the teachings of your Son. Through the narrow door let us pass, by the groanings you inspire in us. What can we do but call upon your NAME? Let us not cry out in vain.
Our enemies surround us, LORD, and seek our downfall. How they wish to see us sleep in death. They would bar the door to your House that we might not enter – in your loving kindness defeat their plans. Let us be made in the image of your Son that on the last day we might join your saints in the kingdom.
Mon, 28 October 2019
(Rm.8:18-25; Ps.126:1-6; Lk.13:18-21)
“Hoping for what we cannot see
means awaiting it with patient endurance.”
We cannot see the coming of the kingdom of heaven. It comes so gradually; it rises imperceptibly, “like yeast which a woman took to knead into three measures of flour.” It grows like the tiny mustard seed, which “became a large shrub and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” A most fruitful reign is the reign of God, and well worth the wait. As Paul says, “I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.” But wait we must. In hope we take our refuge. And as we hope, indeed we suffer, for “we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies.” With the rest of creation we groan “in agony” for the futility to which the physical universe has been subject. Yet hope have we, and it is this which gives us a sense of joy even as we wait so patiently.
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Our psalm gives us a picture of the joy that awaits us in the redemption of the just in the kingdom of God as it describes the happiness of the exiles’ return from Babylon: “We were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.” The knowledge of the Lord’s hand at work in the lives of these Israelites can only increase our hope, can only stir our faith that we too shall sing, “The Lord has done great things for us,” that we too shall “come back rejoicing” after this time of trial which is our stay here on this earth. And the fact that we have the Spirit now as the first payment against the day of judgment and against the power of Satan in this dark world causes a sense of joy already in our bones, gives us even now a foretaste of the kingdom to come, and which comes to us indeed each day in every breath we breathe in His presence, and particularly in the food He leaves us to consume at the altar of His holy sacrifice.
Yes, we have His Word at work in us even now, brothers and sisters. Even as we speak (even as I write), the seed does grow into a tree, the yeast does cause the dough to rise. Though it take time and we hope most for its fulfillment, yet it is with us even now in this blessed growth we experience in the sight of our God, in the blood of our Lord. Our hope is not in vain, and the tears we shed now certainly nourish the growth of the kingdom within us and all around us. Even in these does our hope find fulfillment. Even in these tears do we taste surpassing joy.
O LORD, let us hope in you always;
your kingdom is rising in our midst.
YHWH, in patience let us await the coming of your kingdom, for it shall surely come and is even now here within us. When it shall be revealed to our eyes, our hope will be fulfilled and all our groanings answered. We shall indeed rejoice in your presence on that holy day.
Your Spirit is now planted in us as a seed of the kingdom, and though we go forth in tears doing your work in this dark world, we ever have the Spirit’s reassurance – the hope He engenders makes any sufferings seem as nothing. For your glory, O God, shall soon be revealed in its fullness; it shall soon come to full growth and we will take rest in its branches. O let us rise unto you!
And so, with patient endurance let us wait, O LORD, for the dawn upon the horizon, for on the new day all Creation shall sing your praise, all its sorrow forgotten.
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.
Fri, 25 October 2019
(Rm.8:1-11; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.13:1-9)
“You will all come to the same end unless you reform.”
We hear again today in our readings of the distinction between those who are of the flesh, and so of sin, and those who are of the spirit and justice. And since “the tendency of the flesh is toward death but that of the spirit toward life and peace,” rightly does Jesus warn us that we will die in our sin if we do not repent and turn to Him. For indeed He and the Father, with the Spirit, are of life and have nothing to do with death, with sin.
Paul continues to make clear the difference, the separation, between those of flesh and those of spirit, and continues to encourage his reader to allow the body to die that the spirit might live: “If Christ is in you, the body is indeed dead because of sin, while the spirit lives because of justice.” It is in Jesus that our salvation from sin has come, for when “God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, thereby condemning sin in the flesh,” He made it possible for us to live no longer “according to the flesh,” but “according to the spirit,” for we know that “He who raised Christ from the dead will bring [our] mortal bodies to life also through His Spirit.” Even now His Spirit brings our spirit to life, and on the last day our flesh shall also be joined to Him in heaven.
David’s psalm questions, “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who can stand in His holy place?” Only those “whose hands are sinless… shall receive a blessing from the Lord,” and so, again, we must turn to Him, we must be of “the race that seeks for Him.” “The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it” are of Him. But how our hearts have turned from Him in sin, and so, how shaken we have become, inviting death into our lives. And so only those who renounce their sin, who come by the power of the Spirit and the grace of Jesus’ blood, shall attain to His presence. And only those who bear fruit in His Name will He preserve.
The end of our gospel makes clear that there must be fruit in our lives, brothers and sisters. This is indeed the sign that we are of the spirit – if we “bear fruit” in the Spirit. We cannot claim to be of the spirit and bear the fruit of the flesh, which is sin. Jesus will not fail to recognize the difference, however much we may fool ourselves or others. We will die in the flesh like any sinner if we do not live according to Christ and His Word.
O LORD, let us be dead to the flesh
that we might bear fruit in the Spirit of Christ!
YHWH, let your Spirit dwell in us that we might conquer the flesh and bear fruit in your holy NAME. How shall we be holy as you are holy, how shall we stand in your holy place, if your Spirit is not with us? Fulfill our desire to see your face!
Your Son came and walked amongst us for three years, seeking fruit upon this fig tree. Upon His death and resurrection He sent the Spirit forth to nourish the Church that we might perform works worthy of Heaven. O LORD, help us to repent of our sin and reform our lives in the image of your Son.
Jesus has indeed condemned sin in the flesh that what is mortal might be redeemed and come to life in the Spirit, that we might be free from the law of sin and death by which all creatures are justly condemned and come to dwell in the peace of your presence. LORD God, may the Spirit of Christ make us worthy to stand in your sight.
Thu, 24 October 2019
(Rm.7:18-25; Ps.119:66,68,76-77,93,94; Lk.12:54-59)
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is just?”
Do we not have the law of God at work in us now? Must we yet subject ourselves to the judge of this earth, who cannot but condemn us for our sin? If we cried out with our psalmist for the Lord to teach us His “commands,” His “statutes,” His “law,” and His “precepts,” His “promise” of “compassion” would be with us, His Spirit would come to us and instruct us on all matters. No longer “the prisoner of the law of sin in [our] members,” we would be freed “from this body under the power of death.” Not only would our “inner self agree with the law of God,” but our actions would reflect, by the grace of Him who is at work within us, that law now written on our hearts. The “wisdom and knowledge” the Lord thereby imparts would be sufficient for the resolution of any problem in our lives, for there is nothing beyond the scope of the Spirit.
Both Paul and Jesus Himself encourage us to find the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts. We as a community of believers would have no need to turn to the works of the world to resolve our problems if we followed well the teaching of the Lord and His Church. Should not the Church be our government? Should not the teaching of God, which transcends all earthly wisdom, be sufficient for our discerning right and wrong in any situation? Or is sin still at work in our members? Are we yet subject to this law and the condemnation and death it brings? Has the devil yet a hold upon us; does he yet cast us into darkness? Are we therefore too blind to see right from wrong?
Brothers and sisters, we must cast from our souls all vestige of sin; it cannot hold power over us any longer. We must find the light of Christ in our eyes and so be made able to judge all things in His justice. With our psalmist we must proclaim to the Lord, “Your law is my delight.” If we yet take refuge in the law of sin, it will bring but judgment upon our lives. But if we turn to Him, true wisdom will be ours – and His compassion will save us.
All teaching the Lord puts into the hands of His apostles. Our Pope and bishops and priests continue, as His servants, to proclaim His truth and impart His grace. The Church is the home Jesus leaves us; upon it He places His Spirit. Let us follow the teachings of the Lord and find His power at work in our lives, and all things will be clear to our eyes. And so, condemnation we shall avoid as by the grace of God we judge all things rightly.
O LORD, Jesus has indeed set us free by His power –
let us turn to Him for wisdom.
YHWH, keep us from being imprisoned by sin; only you and your Son have the power to release us from such bondage. Help us to follow your precepts, help us to walk in His way, that we might find your kindness upon our souls and live in freedom this day.
Why is it we are so blind? Why so trapped in the flesh? Our eyes do not look upon the things of the Spirit except with great difficulty, except by the grace that comes to us through your only Son. O LORD, let our eyes be opened to see Him standing before us, and let us follow your Law by His power.
Here we find a war at work within us. Without you we have not the wisdom and knowledge to judge well the path to victory over sin. O LORD, let us not be delivered up to the jailer, for we are not able to pay the price of our transgressions. Let your compassion be upon us that we might live and do what is right.
Wed, 23 October 2019
(Rm.6:19-23; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.12:49-53)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
The division is clear. The Lord Himself has stated, “I have come for division.” Far from establishing “peace on the earth,” His message makes clear the distinction between the evil and the good, the wicked and the just, drawn so well in our psalm today. He has “come to light a fire on the earth.” It shall purify the just for the kingdom of God even as it burns up all the wicked.
Paul also makes clear the division between the evil and the good, between that which is of God and that which is of sin. “Formerly you enslaved your bodies to impurity and licentiousness for their degradation… But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life.” The distinction is certain: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Indeed, the just “is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade,” but the wicked “are like chaff which the wind drives away.” This division is what the Lord’s light and fire reveal; and this revelation is eternal.
It is painful, brothers and sisters. It is painful to undergo our own transformation to justice and light from the depths of depravity into which we have fallen, and will be painful to witness others destroyed by the hardness of their hearts. The Lord Himself expresses this pain when He says, “What anguish I feel till it is over!” He takes no pleasure in bringing the agony of division, which begins with His own agony in the garden and ends with His crucifixion. He suffers most to witness the sins of the masses so acutely. They wag their heads at Him even as He cries from the cross. What is to be done? Division must come. For the kingdom must come, the resurrection must take place, and sin cannot stand in its light – and so those who attach themselves to sin, to the works of the father of lies, will not stand in that day either. And even now the judgment comes, even now we must take sides – even now we choose death, or life.
O LORD, set us free from our sin –
burn away all evil.
YHWH, the sword of the Spirit your Son brings separates the wicked from the just – it is a fire purging all evil from the earth, destroying those who give themselves over to impurity and licentiousness, yet lighting your servants’ way to Heaven. He who walks in accord with that light, placing nothing before its demands to holiness, shall enter your presence even as the insolent are consumed.
What can we do, O LORD. to save souls from death? It shall come inevitably to all slaves of sin. We can but hope to make ourselves pure, seeking ever eternal life, and pray that men will turn to you. All is in your hands; let us be sanctified by your touch.
Who has not sinned? Who has not degraded the dignity you instilled in our souls? Yet you would make us fruitful in the Spirit, O God, if we but set our hearts on your Word.
Tue, 22 October 2019
(Rm.6:12-18; Ps.124:1-8; Lk.12:39-48)
“Offer yourselves to God
as men who have come back from the dead to life.”
If we have come back from the dead to life, should we then offer ourselves up to death again? As Paul questions, “Are we free to sin?” How absurd a thought! If we are sinners, let us give ourselves freely to sin, and find the condemnation which comes from this. But if we are men of justice, let us give ourselves to “obedience” of the teaching imparted to us, and find life firmly in our souls.
Jesus states quite clearly, “When much has been given a man, much will be required of him.” Brothers and sisters, much has been given us simply by our release from the sin which once enslaved us. Indeed, “we were rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare,” as David’s psalm proclaims. The “raging waters” that “would have overwhelmed us,” the “torrent [that] would have swept over us,” has been calmed… For this alone we have much to be thankful; simply by this grace much has been entrusted to us. And what follows only adds to this initial blessing; for each day our souls are required of us, each day He puts in our hands and calls us to the work set aside for our souls to complete. Each day the gift of grace is increased within us. So should we then begin “to abuse the housemen and servant girls, to eat and drink and get drunk”? Should we then return to the slavery of sin which blinds our eyes to His eternal presence? Certainly not. Rather, we should “be on guard” at all times, vigilantly prepared for our master’s return, employing the gifts He imparts to us each passing day.
We are no longer dead, brothers and sisters. We have the grace of our God at work within us, lighting our eyes and filling our souls with His holy food. We must now be holy as He. It is not for us to return to the death of sin, to subject ourselves to its chains once again, to have our eyes darkened and our souls destroyed. The grace, the light within us, must be diligently preserved. We must come to Him, come to His stewards to whom the most has been entrusted, who hold in their power sacramental grace, and confess our sins in His presence, and come and eat of His Body and Blood. Let us avail ourselves of these gifts these successors of the apostles hold and thus find the strength to give our own “bodies to God as weapons for justice” and not for sin.
O LORD, let us give you all that we have,
all that we are;
then there will be nothing left to give.
YHWH, you have saved us from the raging waters, from the torrent that would have overwhelmed our souls – and should we cast ourselves back into the sea? Should we once again give ourselves to sin? No! We must give ourselves as slaves of your justice and serve you all our days, never turning from the grace at work within us, never again obeying the flesh and its lusts.
For soon your Son shall return for us, O LORD – and should He find us in a drunken state? Should He find us with violence in our hands and lust in our heart? If so, then we would prove ourselves unworthy of trust; and what would we be then but beaten for our lack of love?
You yourself are present now in our very spirits, LORD. Let us treasure this grace upon us and work out our salvation, never giving ourselves again to the teeth of the beast.
Mon, 21 October 2019
(Rm.5:12,15,17-21; Ps.40:7-10,17; Lk.12:35-38)
“To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
“May those who love your salvation say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’” May we who love the Lord “exult and be glad” in Him. May we who take refuge in His grace sing aloud His praise. What greater gift could we have than Jesus Christ, whose “single righteous act brought all men acquittal and life. For truly we were dead in our sin,” truly the offense of Adam had infected our souls, truly through this “one man’s disobedience all became sinners” – but more truly “through one man’s obedience all shall become just,” for “His grace has far surpassed” the increase of sin. And so, what should we do but rejoice with David at the truth of Paul’s instruction.
And what should we do but be ready, truly ready, really waiting, patiently, for the return of our Lord. “Be like men awaiting their master’s return from a wedding.” Set your hearts on His coming again, “so that when He knocks, you will open without delay.” This is yet the greater blessing for us servants, that even in these dark days upon this earth, we stand ready for His return. Here is His grace at work within us, that our hearts are set on Him, that His presence, the coming of His kingdom, we know even now in anticipation of its arrival. No greater blessing could we hope for than to be “those servants whom the master finds wide-awake on His return.” By this we know we have conquered sin; by this we see that we have overcome the darkness which surrounds us – if whether “at midnight or before sunrise” we are found prepared, if even in the darkest times we hold His light, if our eyes are like “lamps… burning ready” and our “belts… fastened around [our] waists”… we have all that we need in this world.
Be ready, my brothers and sisters, for the joy is coming; it will not delay. That happiness of life in His presence we sense even now, we taste even this day in our mouths, will come soon to fulfillment in the reign of our God. And so, “those who receive the overflowing grace and gift of justice [will] live and reign through the one man, Jesus Christ,” for whom we await, in whom we take our refuge, whose name we praise, His saving word etched upon our souls and bleeding in our hearts. In all we do we wait for His coming. He alone is our desire, and we shall not be disappointed.
O LORD, let us be always ready to serve you;
let your grace reign in us
and we shall come to do your will.
YHWH, grace has come to us by the sacrifice of your Son and cleansed us of the disobedience of Adam. We are thus set free from sin and placed on the path to eternal life. And so, what should we do now but wait for Jesus’ return, when that grace shall be fulfilled and we shall come to dwell with Him in Heaven?
Truly has Jesus been obedient to your command. Truly has He achieved the conquering of death and the end of its reign for every man. Truly has His death brought us acquittal and life. And truly will He return, O LORD, to reward all His faithful servants; truly will He Himself be their food.
O let us be ready for His coming! Let our lamps be burning ever and our hearts prepared always to open when He knocks. Let us offer ourselves with Him as His Body, dear LORD, that to us quickly salvation shall come even in the dark night of this world.
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.
Fri, 18 October 2019
(Rm.4:13,16-18; Ps.105:6-9,42-43; Lk.12:8-12)
“All depends on faith, everything is a grace.”
Faith is our father; it brings us to life for it makes us children of “the God who restores the dead to life and calls into being those things which had not been.” By faith we entrust ourselves into God’s hands and become as Abraham, who is “our father in the sight of God in whom he believed.” “Hoping against hope, Abraham believed and so became the father of many nations,” and insofar as we believe, we become his children before God. Indeed, it is through faith alone that we are born into His kingdom.
And having faith, we must acknowledge its presence in our lives by witnessing to the Son of God. If we are His disciples, as we must be, we will not hide His grace working in us but allow it to bear fruit in the profession of that faith before the world. And so, as we “come before synagogues, rulers, and authorities,” as we stand before the face of this generation, as we do anything in this world, we must “not worry about how to defend [ourselves] or what to say.” Jesus tells us, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment all that should be said.” And so by this trusting in Him we prove ourselves children of faith.
This is the manner in which I produce this writing. Trusting in Him as entirely as my faith allows, I am not concerned beforehand what I shall speak, what I shall write upon this page. In the measure that I am a child of grace, I prove it by my allowing Him to speak through me at this moment and in His way. This is what we must strive to do with all our work, in all our lives. All our lives are founded upon this faith, and the Lord calls us in an ever greater way to express that faith, to live that faith, by consecrating all we think and do to His will and desire. It is for us to but come into His presence, to remember He is here with us, and so to find His grace at work in our lives.
We must be prepared and be preparing ourselves always to stand before Him forever. As we place ourselves in His presence now, it is so that we die to ourselves and begin to live by His grace. More and more we must trust in that faith which joins us to Him and makes us children of the promise which “holds true for all Abraham’s descendants… for all who have his faith.” Faith alone will bring us to life, for faith alone brings us into the presence of Him who is life. Enter His grace, brothers and sisters, and find it working in your life.
O LORD, if we believe in you,
you will be with us.
YHWH, you restore the dead to life and call into being those things which had not been. And so, should we not put our faith in you? And so, should we not proclaim your glory before men? With a God such as you, what need we fear? O let us live in faith and so be blessed!
All indeed depends on faith, O LORD; it is our very life breath. Everything is a grace from you who bring all things into being, and we must acknowledge that grace at work in our lives in order to join ourselves to you and that grace, and so find life itself. Separated from you we shall but die, but as children of Abraham, as children of faith who believe in you and in your Son, we shall live forever.
You are faithful and true to your Covenant with your chosen ones. Let us trust in you, LORD, and in your Spirit’s movement in our lives.
Thu, 17 October 2019
(2Tm.4:9-17; Ps.145:10-13,17-18; Lk.10:1-9)
“The Lord stood by my side and gave me strength,
so that through me the preaching task might be completed
and all the nations might hear the Gospel.”
As I read of Jesus’ instruction to the disciples as He “sent them in pairs before Him to every town and place He intended to visit,” and particularly His words to them to “eat what they set before you,” I am reminded of the command given Peter in his dream to “take and eat” of the unclean animals (Acts 10:13), this just before the first Gentile converts came to him seeking the Word of God. And, of course, similar terminology is present in Jesus’ sending his workers as if into a harvest: in this case, the Lord shall eat of the feast the disciples are sent forth to prepare.
We know our work is our food, that the labor the Lord imparts to us serves as our daily bread. And we know that the wheat that becomes His precious Body and the Word that is cultivated by His apostles, by His preachers and prophets, is the food that sustains us, that strengthens us for our daily tasks. All we do must be blessed by Him and be, as it were, a “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom,” and His kingdom, which is “a kingdom for all ages,” and His dominion, which “endures through all generations,” shall become known in our midst.
It is not easy to eat of this food, to drink of this cup. We see how alone Paul finds himself in our first reading. “Everyone abandoned me,” he declares in reference to his trial before the courts of this world. He pleads with Timothy to join him soon, for many have left his side: “I have no one with me but Luke.” Indeed, he has nothing but the Word of God. And most apparent in the Lord’s instruction to His disciples is the utter reliance on God we must find. Impoverished He sends them forth, dependent only on their preaching and healing to feed themselves. Yes, He sends them forth “as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Not a happy prospect. But they have the Word of the Lord to make them strong and protect them from all evil of this world, and nothing could be more sure than this.
Into so many homes Luke’s gospel has come, bringing its peace to all who abide in the Lord. The proclamation by this great evangelist that “the reign of God is at hand” comes to our hearts even this day. Let us make room for this Word within ourselves and it shall feed us on our journey to the kingdom, and by its grace we shall complete our work on this earth. May the word of the Lord go ever forth.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, send forth your laborers
to declare the glory of your kingdom to all nations.
YHWH, send forth workers into your harvest, that all might hear your Word preached to their souls and find your peace in their hearts. Your reign be upon us this day.
O LORD, your kingdom endures through all generations; to your glory there is no end. O let us share in your holiness, let us share in your glory! and let us share your glory with all souls on the face of this earth. Though we must stand alone as has Paul, though we might be rejected by those to whom we come, yet let us be faithful to your Word and with great strength and confidence accomplish your will.
You are our strength, O LORD, and you are our peace; send us forth in your Name to preach and to heal. Let your kingdom come into our midst through your blessed disciples, who speak only of your glory, who find refuge in your might. Nothing do we need if we have you, LORD. Please stand at our side.
Wed, 16 October 2019
(Rm.3:21-30; Ps.130:1-7; Lk.11:47-54)
“This generation will have to account for the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world.”
And so shall it be with Christ’s own blood, the fulfillment of all the martyrs’ sacrifice; for these same scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus proclaims guilty of the prophets’ murders will indeed devise the murder of the Son of God. And they prove the truth of His words immediately by their manifestation of “fierce hostility to Him” and their thus giving birth to the plot to crucify Him.
Perhaps most appropriate for today, with regard to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, is the Lord’s admonishment of the lawyers: “You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not gained access, yet you have stopped those who wish to enter!” It is essentially the same message the Apostle teaches: “The justice of God has been manifested apart from the law… that justice of God which works through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is not through “observance of the law” that justification comes; the works of the law – circumcision, animal sacrifice, dietary rules – which address the body, are useless in this regard. God is Spirit and it is spiritual means He uses to redeem us – we must come in faith to Him. And those who would restrict faith by the imposition of these laws serve only to impede the working of the Spirit and His grace. Paul states the question succinctly: “Does God belong to the Jews alone? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?” If He is God of all nations, it is not meet to impose Jewish religious practice upon those apart from Jewish tradition. But these protectors, or rather “possessors” and defilers of the law – defiling it by their greed in seizing it, their pride in assuming it as their own and not God’s – cannot accept that “it is the same God,” that the Gentiles are equal in grace with the Jews… and so to them this teaching is blasphemy.
At the root of the problem is the fact that these leaders are not as the psalmist in our readings today, who sings: “My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.” Nor do they cry “in supplication” “out of the depths” of their iniquity for God’s forgiveness. If they had been so disposed, they would have seen who stood before them, they would have recognized His coming, and they would have fallen to their knees and found His grace.
Let us not be so hardhearted, for indeed the blood of Jesus is upon the hands of all who sin, just as His salvation is upon all who repent and believe in Him. Water alone will not wash us clean; we must recognize the lack of love we have, and find His Spirit working in us.
O LORD, your justice is shown in your mercy,
which you offer to every faithful soul.
YHWH, we have all sinned and fallen short of your glory, and cannot by our own strength find our way back to you. We cannot justify ourselves but need the grace that comes to us through the blood of your Son to justify our souls, to set us right with you.
But what of those who fail to see they need your forgiveness, who fail to recognize that they, too, are sinners, that they have the blood of Jesus upon their hands? O LORD, how can these be justified? How can they come to faith in you if they do not listen to the One you have sent to draw us back to your presence? They shall but continue in the way of sinning, mounting up the blood of the prophets for judgment day.
Your Son offers His life for our sakes; freely He sacrifices Himself upon the Cross that we might be saved. Help us to turn to Him, O LORD, to see what we have done, repent, and be redeemed. You are the God of us all, and to all souls Jesus’ blood does call.
Tue, 15 October 2019
(Rm.2:1-11; Ps.62:2-3,6-7,9,13; Lk.11:42-46)
“Your hard and impenitent heart
is storing up retribution for that day of wrath
when the just judgment of God will be revealed.”
“He will repay every man for what he has done… Yes, affliction and anguish will come upon every man who has done evil… But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who has done good.” This is the just judgment, and it comes only from God, not from sinful man.
And so we are chastised in preparation for that day, that of His wrath we may be spared. We should all wish to be “insult”ed by Jesus as are the Pharisees and lawyers in today’s gospel, here, today, while there is still time. We should all desire His difficult words of instruction which would serve, if heeded humbly, to separate us from the sins of the world, the attachments of this life that cling to our soul and prevent our coming into His presence. Under His mighty hand we should all subject ourselves, that He might lighten our “impossible burdens,” that He might take from us all that is not holy, all that is not true – that we might be freed from the judgment upon our souls and walk with Him in immortality. We must be ready for His day. But as it is the darkness is with us.
“Only in God is my soul at rest.” With David we must sing this truth from our hearts. The emptiness of the flesh and its imagination must not possess us; vain pride must take no place in our lives… All our lusts must be set aside and we must know with certainty that only in God do we find our peace: He is our refuge and our strength. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold,” we must cry, and “trust in Him at all times,” or wandering from the truth we will find ourselves in the way of destruction.
“God’s kindness is an invitation to you to repent.” In His patience He gives you time to turn from sin and find His grace and mercy. Pray He will convict you of your sin in this time and you will not convict yourself by your judgment of others. Seek His redeeming hand at work in your life and do the good before Him. Then you “shall not be disturbed,” when His Word has taken root in your soul, when you have left behind all the vanity of this world. Then the glory of God will be your own, and nothing shall remove it from you. Soften your heart to His blessed chastisement; it shall work for you against the day of judgment.
O LORD, we will be judged by what we do,
and by what we fail to do –
let us set our hearts on you alone.
YHWH, let us not fall into judgment of others but treasure rather your Son’s chastisement of our souls, that we might find freedom from our sins and take our refuge in you alone. Soon your just judgment will be revealed; let us benefit from your kindness and take this time to repent, lest we be condemned on your day of wrath.
Your love, O God, is shown in the call to repentance you make to all your children, the Jew first, then the Gentile. You indeed chastise every son whom you love. And so Jesus proclaims great woe upon the Pharisees, hoping to turn them from their wicked ways; and so St. Paul makes known to us our hard and impenitent hearts, that from the punishment they invite we might be spared.
While there is time, O LORD, while your grace and mercy are yet being offered forth, let us place our trust in you alone, and so find rest for our souls in your eternal glory.
Mon, 14 October 2019
(Rm.1:16-25; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.11:37-41)
“They stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose,
and their senseless hearts were darkened.”
If these words do not refer to modern man most poignantly, then I imagine nothing can be said of anything. In ancient times, “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man, birds, beasts, and snakes” and bowed down to statues as if they were gods. The images man worships today are also the creations of his own hands, sometimes as physical as the idols worshiped before the time of Christ – who does not long to see his own image on one of our television sets, and who is held in greater esteem than those movie stars whom we have never met but know only of their image on a screen? – but perhaps most particularly they are the vain ideas, which reveal their utter absurdity to any mind with a modicum of common sense, but which are propounded as sacred by the elite thinkers of our day. Their numbers seem endless, and one wonders if man will rationalize himself out of existence, as perhaps he already has philosophically in the declaration that God is dead, and so often done in reality through movements such as Communism and Nazism.
Indeed, how relevant are all Paul’s words today: “They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks”; “they claimed to be wise, but turned into fools instead”; “they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies.” But “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who… hinder the truth.” “These men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” cannot but come to naught, for “day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge” – the Gospel goes forth “to the ends of the world” and Truth overwhelms all lies. As Jesus overturned the Pharisees who “cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but within… are filled with rapaciousness,” so shall the mind of modern man be shown for all its absurdity in the clear light of day.
Time. There is but time to wait. Time for the Word to go forth and to pray for the conversion of the nations, of all peoples. And there is hope, hope that men shall turn from their absurdity and their perversity to embrace the light of the Gospel and the true teaching of love it brings. We pray the senseless will find faith and be led thereby to salvation.