Sat, 30 March 2019
(Jos.5:9a,10-12; Ps.34:2-7,9; 2Cor.5:17-21; Lk.15:1-3,11-32)
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
As the Israelites now realize their redemption from slavery in Egypt as they step into the Promised Land, so the prodigal son comes to his own redemption, his own release from slavery as a hired hand in a foreign land, as he returns to his father’s house. Yes, as the Israelites “ate of the produce of the land” for the first time after the feast of Passover, so the prodigal son feasts on the “fattened calf” slaughtered for him by his merciful father. And the redemption of both is a redemption from sin.
Today we hear quite clearly “the message of reconciliation” proclaimed throughout our readings. It is a call to all souls and a thanksgiving to God, “who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” And will we come to the water and drink? Will we leave behind “the pods on which the swine fe[e]d” and come to His table to eat? Will we too come to our senses and, realizing the mercy the Father holds for all His children, return to the House of God and feast in the land to which He leads us?
It seems certain, and simple, that we should join David in his song of praise, that we should heed him as he entreats our souls: “Glorify the Lord with me.” For as “from all his distress He saved him,” so from all our distress He saves us; and so nothing should fill our hearts but joy. “He was lost and has been found,” the Lord declares in jubilation over every poor sinner who returns to His fold. And so, should we not respond gratefully to the appeal of Paul and all those entrusted with “the ministry of reconciliation” to indeed “be reconciled to God.” In faith let us confess our sins and know the gracious blood of our Redeemer pouring upon our souls.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And now He waits on the road before His House for our return. Now He longs to open the doors of forgiveness and let us into His dwelling. Now He would see the sacrifice of His Son bear fruit, that we all might be as He is. Accept His removal of sin like a sword in the depths of your soul, and enter into His kingdom.
O LORD, let us eat of the yield of your Holy Land
and become a new creation.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you who hold your arms open to receive us poor sinners. In your Son and in His sacrifice you offer us redemption from all our iniquity and invite us in to sup with you in your House, in your eternal kingdom. We are not worthy of such grace, but your love transcends our unworthiness.
To the Promised Land the Israelites come, having left the bonds of Egypt behind. You gave them bread by your hand on their way to freedom, and now the fruit of that land they eat and find themselves well fed. The Prodigal Son is welcomed home by his compassionate father. The fattened calf is killed in celebration of his return, though half of his father’s property he has squandered in his sin.
O LORD, how can we fathom your love for us, your invitation to us to come back to your side despite our disobedience? May all men come to their senses and call out to you.
Sat, 23 March 2019
(Ex.3:1-8a,13-15; Ps.103:1-4,6-8,11; 1Cor.10:1-6,10-12; Lk.13:1-9)
“The Lord secures justice
and the rights of all the oppressed.”
Thus does the Lord God appear to Moses and call him to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. He has “witnessed the affliction of His people”; He has “heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers” and “know[s] well what they are suffering.” And so, by the hand of Moses, He will lead them to “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Yes, brothers and sisters, the Lord “has made known His ways to Moses”; His “kindness and compassion” He has revealed to His people. The great I AM (YHWH), He who is and who will always be, has come and shown Himself to His servant on the “holy ground” of Mount Horeb. In a “bush [that] is not burned” though flaming with fire, He opens Moses' eyes to His presence. And He tells him His glorious NAME, by which He is “to be remembered through all generations” – that it is He who is Life. And, of course, the life He brings is one of mercy and healing.
Yet, though the Lord is certainly “merciful and gracious,” He is also just; thus does Paul remind us that though all the Israelites “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” in their exodus from slavery, though all ate and drank from “the rock [that] was Christ… God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.” So the blessings they had gained by the mercy of our God, they soon lost by their own disobedience. And so could we all lose the grace of Christ at work in our lives if we “desire evil things, as they did.” For God is merciful, but God is just, and will not have His kindness presumed upon.
Thus does Jesus Himself also warn us, even as He warns the people who question Him this day that they are no better than those “whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices,” that we are not without guilt ourselves. Thus does He proclaim, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did,” as all sinners do. And thus does He warn us by parable that if we do not bear fruit in His name, we shall be cut down and thrown in the fire – for there is no wasted ground in the kingdom of God.
If you cry out to Him, He will hear you, for it is He who “redeems your life from destruction” and your salvation is His desire. But justice insists that if you turn back to your sin, you choose to remove yourself from His loving arms.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Going Home" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us repentant hearts
that we might not be removed from your sight
but burn with your Spirit always.
YHWH, let us not presume upon your mercy, for you have saved us but we remain in danger of falling again if we do not remember your NAME, if we do not keep in mind that you have made us and that you have saved us, you who are Life itself. If we forget your benefits, our iniquities shall return, and then how shall we stand in your presence?
You alone are holy, LORD; you alone are beyond our tongues to describe. Let us be silent before you and remember the blessings you pour upon our souls. For though you are far beyond our ability to comprehend, though your ways far surpass our own, yet you look with compassion on our affliction and seek to rescue us from all ill.
But we must remain humble at all times, lest our branches become barren. Ever we must bear fruit in your Name or we will be separated from your grace, from the surpassing light of your face. O LORD, lead us through this desert to your Promised Land.
Sat, 16 March 2019
(Gn.15:5-12,17-18; Ps.27:1,7-9,13-14; Phil.3:17-4:1; Lk.9:28-36)
“A cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.”
As darkness thus covered the three apostles, so “a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.” Both find themselves surrounded by darkness and filled with fear. In just this way the Lord brings His revelations. For as the Lord is about to pronounce beyond doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, so He is about to send “a flaming torch” to pass between Abram’s offerings and so confirm his taking possession of the Promised Land. The Lord must act in such manner to cleanse all foolishness from our souls, that we might hear His most pure Word.
But light comes out of the darkness: indeed, “the Lord is [our] light and [our] salvation” – He Himself is not darkness. And so as the fire of the torch pierces the dark night upon Abram’s mind, so the chief apostles are privileged to see Jesus’ glory, to witness in fullness the Light the Son of God is. And the Lord God leaves no doubt with them that it is of Jesus He says, “This is my chosen Son,” for though the greatest men of Jewish history had also “appeared in glory” with Jesus, now He is “found alone” – and the apostles are left speechless.
It must pass to the marrow of our bones, the Truth of Christ’s salvation. If in any way superficial or “occupied with earthly things” is our vision, Him we have not known. He alone stands as our “life’s refuge”; in Him alone do we find God’s presence – Him alone should our “glance” seek. But as we pray, “Hide not your face from me,” we should realize how profound is the prayer we make. For the Lord indeed “will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body” when He appears at the end of the age, but consider for a moment what it will be like to have that power of refinement upon ourselves. Very much like the darkness which envelops the apostles and Abram today; very much like the dark night of the soul of which our great saints speak. Are you prepared to have the Lord separate soul from spirit with His sword of Truth? Do you know this piercing, fiery process even now? Then even in this world you shall begin to behold His face, and find yourself ready on that Day to be taken from earthly to heavenly tents.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "White" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to stand ready
before the terrifying glory revealed in your Son.
YHWH, you are our light in the darkness of this world; though the dark threaten to envelop us, you are there to save us – even in the darkness we find your fire purifying our souls for entering your presence.
To your glory you call us; the land of Heaven you promise us. And that promise is set firmly upon the law and the prophets, and that promise is fulfilled in your Son. He is our hope as we pass through the temptations of this life knowing we are citizens of Heaven. O LORD, let us be conformed to His glorified Body!
You have given witness to Jesus, that He is your Chosen One. You call us to listen to Him, to seek only Him: He shines as the stars in the night sky, leading us to your glory. May our hearts be set on Him alone and we shall not be afraid. O LORD, hide not your face from us.
Sat, 9 March 2019
(Dt.26:4-10; Ps.91:1-2,10-15; Rom.10:8-13; Lk.4:1-13)
“To His angels He has given command about you,
that they guard you in all your ways.”
Can there be any doubt that the Lord God will bear Jesus up through His temptations in the desert, that He “will deliver Him and glorify Him”? For if “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” will the Father leave His Son “in distress”? If He has rescued David from “the lion and the dragon,” will He not also “set [Jesus] on high,” apart from any danger? If the Israelites say: “We cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and He heard our cry” – and so delivered them from the “affliction” and “toil” and “oppression” of Egyptian slavery – will the deliverance of the Holy One from Satan’s clutches be long in coming? Indeed the angels watch over Him, for His name is joined to that of the Father.
And indeed it is His name we now call upon in our need. As Paul tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And so He who has been preserved from the devil’s temptation now becomes the source of our own salvation – we find ourselves now protected as He, blessed by our faith in the Lord of all.
I notice again how the temptations present in our gospel are indicated, and answered, in our first reading and psalm. Of course, the devil himself attempts to use our quote from Psalm 91 to bring the Lord to ruin – showing how Scripture can indeed be twisted to perverse ends – foolishly failing to see that the quote would prove ultimately true. And the Israelites’ bringing their tithe to God, saying, “I have now brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O Lord, have given me,” reveals the sacrifice that verifies that “one does not live by bread alone”; while Moses’ instruction that they then “bow down in [God’s] presence” confirms that “Him alone shall [we] serve.”
O devil, all your temptations will be in vain; can you not see the fruitlessness of your acts? You cannot harm Him who holds your life in His hands, and so why do you not turn and, as the faithful angels, learn to love and serve the Holy One? Brothers and sisters, it is too late for this “viper” to come to truth, but not for any man who will confess that Jesus is the Christ. So let us preach to the ends of the earth by the power of deliverance from sin won by our Lord that “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame.” Oh that all souls would be saved!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Chicken or the Egg" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us bow down before you
and serve you alone,
and we shall be blessed with your protection.
YHWH, bring us out of Egypt by your strong hand; lead us from the desert by your great power. Save us from temptation and bring us with your Son into the Promised Land.
We call upon your NAME, O LORD: save us! We believe that Jesus is LORD with you and that you have raised Him from the dead – let us not be put to shame. Help us to endure in the face of the devil; your Word be ever upon our tongues. O let us trust in you that we shall be delivered from all trials, trampling down the lion and the dragon by the intercession of your angels.
You protect us, dear God, and give us all the food we need to thrive in this land of exile. With you at our side, we shall not be afraid. By the grace upon your Son let us be redeemed from the power of the evil one and enter into your kingdom with a song of praise.
Mon, 4 March 2019
(Sir.35:1-12; Ps.50:5-8,14,23; Mk.10:28-31)
“The just man’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.”
Peter is moved today to voice his fear that all that he and his fellow apostles have offered, even their very lives, will not be enough to secure the kingdom of God. But Jesus reassures all who serve Him: “I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for me and for the Gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many… and persecution besides – and in the age to come, everlasting life.” None should fear that their sacrifice will be wasted, “for the Lord is one who always repays,” and repays in full, multiplying whatever gifts we offer beyond our expectations.
“But offer no bribes, these He does not accept!” You will never be able to extort graces from the Lord, and so should always come without expectation of return. Make all your sacrifices as “freewill gifts,” for only that which is given “generously” and “in a spirit of joy” does He smile upon. Bring your gifts to the altar expecting nothing but the cross, in this find your return, and the glory of the resurrection shall indeed be yours. You must learn from those whom the Lord rebukes, though their “holocausts are before [Him] always” – only “he that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies” the Lord, and so you must find joy in your cross.
Oh how “the just man’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.” “He who observes the commandments” and “gives alms,” he who performs “works of charity,” who “refrain[s] from evil” and “avoid[s] injustice”… oh how this man “pleases the Lord”! For his life is as a “sacrifice of praise,” an offering of peace and an atonement for sin, which cannot but reach to the throne of God. Yes, “to him that goes the right way [the Lord] will show the salvation of God.” Of this you can be assured.
O LORD, the more we give you our lives,
the more we are blessed,
for the more we are of you.
YHWH, what is it you desire from us but to be generous as you are, to share all your gifts with others? None is more generous than you; none could give a greater number of blessings here on this earth and in the heavenly kingdom. Yet, do we trust in you and in your generosity, in the great wealth that only you possess?
All things are in your hands, O LORD. Let us learn this simple lesson. All things are in your hands and you give them freely and abundantly to those who serve you faithfully. Though there be a cross we must bear in this world, how light it is made by the graces you pour upon us, by the love you share with all your disciples.
And so, let us give alms, let us be just, and let us do all with a cheerful countenance; and we shall reflect your glory in this world and carry even now your presence in our souls. LORD, to the end let us follow in your way and offer ever a sacrifice of praise, and your blessings will be forever upon us.
Sun, 3 March 2019
(Sir.17:19-27; Ps.32:1-2,5-7,11; Mk.10:17-27)
“Jesus fixed His gaze on them and said,
‘For man it is impossible but not for God.’”
With these incisive words and particularly with this intent look, Jesus “encourages those who are losing hope.” His disciples are “completely overwhelmed” at His statement: “It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” and to keep them from falling into despair at the impossibility of such a proposition, He seeks to teach them that “with God all things are possible.” For truly none can be saved but by the grace of God.
“As Jesus was setting out on a journey a man came running up, knelt down before Him and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?’” How like “the penitent [for whom] He provides a way back” is this man on his knees before the Lord today. And even after the Lord seems to rebuff his advance, how he persists, begging further word from the Master with the reply to Jesus’ listing of certain commandments, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” Please tell me more, he seems to cry out. And so “Jesus looked at him with love,” a love that is beyond the bounds of this world and beyond the bounds of the law – a love that makes all things possible, even the attainment of the kingdom of God, even for us wretched sinners. “How great the mercy of the Lord, His forgiveness of those who return to Him!” “Happy is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered”; for among the dead we would be if not for His divine mercy.
But oh “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” Though wrought with the Lord’s grace, how difficult it is to accompany Christ on His journey. For our hearts are not on His love but on the things we must give up, and so, how readily we turn away in sadness. It is indeed out of love Jesus calls the rich man from his possessions to His side; this is indeed an immeasurable grace pouring forth from the heart of God… but who among us can accept it? Who among us truly seeks everlasting life?
“God watches over the host of highest heaven, while all men are dust and ashes.” While “the thoughts of flesh and blood” are obscure, as the wise man tells us, and his possessions of even less consequence; while the sun itself “can be eclipsed” and all things of the earth are passing… yet the kingdom of the Lord endures and holds promise of shelter for the contrite spirit of a humble man. For dust may pass easily through the eye of any needle, and we can be united with the vision of God; for us too all things are made possible, if we humble ourselves in the ashes – if we fall sincerely at the feet of the Lord, and accept His word.
O LORD, help us freely renounce all of this world.
YHWH, please help us to inherit eternal life; though we must die first, though we must give up all things of this world, let us not look at what is lost but what is gained, being forever with you in Heaven.
Why should we prefer the riches of this life to life everlasting; why should we not want to be at Jesus’ side even here where we stand? It is a fool who desires passing things to those that last; LORD, give us the wisdom and courage to do what is right.
You would let nothing stand in our way to you, LORD; all blindness and sin you would drown in the sea. You would not remember our transgressions against you or our failure to heed your call… let us turn again and kneel before your Son. Then we shall praise you with all the living on high.
It is not death we should fear or the renunciation of our goods. Let us rather fear disobedience toward you and the loss of the kingdom. O LORD, truly let us be cleansed of the guilt of our sin, that with clear eyes and open hearts we might follow you.
Sat, 2 March 2019
(Sir.27:4-7; Ps.92:2-3,13-16; 1Cor.15:54-58; Lk.6:39-45)
“Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord.”
Brothers and sisters, “in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” for “the just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.” If you are “planted in the house of the Lord,” “vigorous and sturdy” shall you ever be, “bear[ing] fruit even in old age.” You shall remove “the wooden beam” that plagues your eye and thus find the vision to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother. You will be like your teacher, like the Lord, sharing in the power only He possesses.
“When fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” And we must be trained, we must be tested in tribulation, molded in the furnace of the Lord’s chastising Word. We must know that “a good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit,” and so if there is rottenness come from us, we must cast it in the fire. For only goodness should be born from the store of our heart, and that in abundance, else how shall we be called disciples of Jesus… how shall we be like Him in every way? Falling short of His perfection will not get us where we want to be: we must see that “this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility.”
Our readings today equate work with speech, the quintessential human activity, one which indeed shows “the bent of one’s mind.” And so when the Lord says, “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks,” He indicates not only the words passing our lips but all the actions that follow in their wake. By these fruits, as by our words, shall we be tested and judged. Thus must our hearts and our words and all our actions be founded in Jesus, the tree of life.
“The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had.” Only by a man’s fruit shall you know him. And what does your fruit speak of you? What does your speech reveal? Do you “sing praise to [the Lord’s] name” in all you do; do you declare the glory of the “Most High” with every word? Brothers and sisters, only what is hard and true is lasting; only what is rooted in Him can stand the test of holy fire. Perform all your labor according to the mold Christ prepares, and your fruit shall reach unto heaven.
Written, read, and chanted by James Kurt.
Music: "Branch of the Vine" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, remove the wooden beam from our eye
that we might praise you with all our lives.
YHWH, let us be fully devoted to your work and our labor will not be in vain. Rather, planted in your House, we shall flourish and bear fruit even in old age. O let us produce good from a good heart!
Indeed, it is of the heart the mouth speaks; from what is in our heart come our words and all our actions. And so, how much do we need you to be present within us, O LORD; without your Son how shall we find victory over sin and death, which so pervade this dark place and hover before our eyes?
Let us not be blind, dear LORD. Let us not fail to recognize our faults, our shortcomings before your holy light. Let us freely subject ourselves to the tribulation that shall purify our hearts, our thoughts, our words and actions… that we might reflect your glory even in this world, doing your work all our days and coming to immortality with Jesus your Son.
Fri, 1 March 2019
(Sir.17:1-15; Ps.103:13-18; Mk.10:13-16)
“Let the children come to me
and do not hinder them.”
O how the Lord “looks with favor upon [our] hearts, and shows [us] His glorious works”! And because “His majestic glory their eyes beheld, His glorious voice their ears heard,” so the “people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them,” so they were offering their precious loved ones into the arms of the Savior. And should we not all come to Him, should we not all run into His arms… are we not all His children?
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord from the earth created man, and in His own image He made him.” Do you hear that? In His own image we are made, as His sons and daughters. “He endows [us] with a strength of His own… He forms our tongues and eyes and ears, and imparts to [us] an understanding heart.” He makes us as Himself, and then fills us with His presence! And should we not come to Him, should we not come to His only Son, our own dear brother, the perfection of our race, that all disfigurement might be taken from us and we might radiate the light of God, that we might be remade in His image?
The Lord is only love and “His eyes are ever upon [our] ways” to guide us to His love. He is “as a father [who] has compassion on his children.” Yes, “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and those who fear Him are His children. But this fear, this overwhelming awe at the love the Maker of the universe has toward His simple creatures, is not one which makes us run from Him, but which moves us to leap into the arms of our Redeemer, into the arms of Him whose arms are always open to receive us, always open to embrace His children.
We know our blessed brother John has told us with holy affection that “we are God’s children now” (1Jn.3:2). Of this grace at the hands of our Lord he has spoken most eloquently, most simply – most lovingly. And it is so for all who love Him. And so we should not hinder our hearts from coming to Him, from embracing Him as He embraces us… from giving ourselves to Jesus (particularly in the Sacrament), that we might be formed in His image. Come to Him who is one with the Father, and one with the Father you shall become.
O LORD, only your children come to you;
welcome us into your kingdom.
YHWH, let us come to you as children, trusting in your love. And you will embrace us, and you will bless us… and we will come into your kingdom on high.
We are but dust, O LORD, and our days pass like those of the grass. A breath from your mouth and we are gone. But it is your Breath that gives us life, that makes us wise, that makes us holy – that causes us to share in your glory. You have created us from the earth but have endowed us with a spirit like your own. Let us know your kindness upon us that we may endure unto eternity.
LORD, let us remain in awe of you, ever grateful for the gifts that you give us, for the wonder that is upon us every day of our lives. Let us not be separated from you but always be as your children, innocent and obedient and humble as you. To your Son let us run and so find a home in His flesh and blood, and so be adopted into your love.