Thu, 30 May 2019
(Zeph.3:14-18 or Rom.12:9-16; Is.12:2-6; Lk.1:39-56)
“Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.”
How can we capture the joy of this day? For here is the sign of our promised salvation; here we find the first apostolic act in Mary’s bringing the Word of God, so recently conceived in her womb, to Elizabeth, and to her son John the Baptist.
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!” Zephaniah encourages the holy nation. And for what does Zion, and indeed the whole world, rejoice but that which we celebrate this day? Here in these simple, lowly women we find all of Israel rejoicing as she brings to birth her Savior. Yes, even now “the Lord, [her] God, is in [her] midst,” even in her womb; and already He begins to bring salvation forth. Already we find a kind of first Pentecost as first, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’… and then Mary said: ‘My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior?” And already the Baptist in the womb of his aged mother has been inspired by the presence of the Son of God; already he has “stirred in [her] womb for joy,” just at the sound of Mary’s voice touching the ears of his mother, even as Jesus is but days old in Mary’s blessed womb.
And how does all this joy come but through humility. “For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call [her] blessed.” Yes, Mary is raised “to high places,” is become the Mother of God, because of her great humility before Him. It is this lowliness she proclaims in her canticle today; it is this lowliness Elizabeth exudes when she asks, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – and it is this same lowliness which is required of all the children of Israel, of all Abraham’s descendants, if we are to know that “the Lord has removed the judgment against [us],” if we are to “shout with exultation” for “the Holy One of Israel” in our midst.
Let us heed Paul’s instruction to the Romans to “put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly” that we might “rejoice with those who rejoice.” As our holy women today, these models of faith, let us “look on the needs of the saints as [our] own” and “be generous in offering hospitality.” “Be fervent in spirit; He whom you serve is the Lord.” For it is He who comes under your roof this day. It is His holy name you should proclaim in all you do and say. And the blessing of salvation shall be upon you.
Mother of God, bring to us this day our Savior,
that we might rejoice with you in heaven.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you have looked upon us in our lowliness
and sent your Son to dwell among us –
may we praise you always for your glory!
YHWH, let us praise your holy NAME this day, for you have come into our midst and raised us poor creatures from the dust to dwell with you in your Temple. Praise you, LORD! Visit us this day in your love, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
O LORD, make us humble and lowly as she who carries your Son to us, humble and lowly as Israel your Chosen one – humble and lowly as Jesus Himself. In Mary’s womb with Him let us dwell and so hear your voice calling to our hearts through all she speaks unto our poor ears. In darkness we remain, in the cave of this world; but you bring us light and life – for such grace let us praise you!
Dispel all fear from our hearts, LORD, at the sound of your Mother’s voice, and so with her let us proclaim your greatness, and the salvation you have wrought in your mercy. We are nothing, nothing but simple souls waiting on your Word… Speak to us this day and awaken us to your glory, that our hearts might exult in your presence all our days.
Mother of God, pray for your poor children.
Sat, 25 May 2019
(Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Ps.67:2-6,8; Rv.21:10-14,22-23; Jn.14:23-29)
“The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
And so is “the holy city Jerusalem” protected; and so are its boundaries defined. And so we come to the apostles to find the true teaching of Christ.
When “there arose no little dissension and debate” between Paul and Barnabas and certain brothers from Judea who were insisting the Gentile converts must be “circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,” what was the recourse needed to settle this most crucial of questions – the first great question of the Church? “It was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders.” There the debate would be settled. There authority is found – in the apostles and those they appoint. There is nowhere else on earth any could turn to secure the truth, to find genuine guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus has promised “will teach [the disciples] everything,” who will be with the Church as its Advocate till the end of time. And so the apostles and elders speak in truth when they write to the waiting souls of the Gentiles: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden,” for indeed they speak of the Holy Spirit and for and by the Holy Spirit – indeed they speak the truth.
Brothers and sisters, is not the reason the Church is fractured into hundreds if not thousands or even millions of pieces (each soul following his own way without regard for the teaching of the Church), is not the reason some advocate for abortion, or euthanasia, or female or homosexual priests, or a thousand other indiscretions and blasphemies – is not the cause of the great turmoil within the walls of the temple as well as, inevitably, outside it in the world… is it not fundamentally a lack of obedience to the teachings of Christ, to the teachings of His apostles? And though it is so that upon all His baptized is placed the seal of the Spirit, and so all may know the truth, yet it is just as so that without the confirmation of the apostles – as even Paul realized – one cannot be sure of his thoughts, and certainly has no right to teach! Surely the Jews thought they were right in insisting the Gentiles be circumcised. Let none be presumptuous of the Spirit’s word.
In the heavenly city there is “no temple,” there is “no need of sun or moon” – “the glory of God [gives] it light, and its lamp [is] the Lamb.” But we do not dwell in the fullness of Jerusalem here; this I can assure you. On earth we have unquestionable need for a Church. And that Church is now founded in Rome with the Pope.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Solid Rock Unshakable Foundation" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let the light and peace of your Son
be with us this day as we gather in your holy NAME.
YHWH, let us enter your Temple, here on earth and in Heaven. With you and with your Son let us dwell. Your Church, the New Jerusalem, be our home.
O LORD, to your holy City let all peoples come – make your face shine upon all souls. To your heavenly glory Jesus calls us, and so, let us indeed keep His Word, His commandment of love, and with us you will come to dwell.
But how shall we know if we are keeping your commandments except by the authority you place upon the twelve apostles? How can we be certain we are following the path to the kingdom apart from the declaration of Peter? If we are not obedient to the ones you send, we shall not be obedient to you, and so will be without the light of the Holy Spirit to guide us. O let us be one with you as is your Son, as is your Church on earth! O LORD, let us glory in your presence forever.
Wed, 22 May 2019
(Acts 15:7-21; Ps.96:1-3,10; Jn.15:9-11)
“We are saved by the favor of the Lord Jesus.”
We are told of the Council of Jerusalem, convened to determine if the Gentiles need be subject to circumcision and the Mosaic Law, “After much discussion, Peter took the floor,” and that after he had finished speaking, “the whole assembly fell silent.” What is there to say after the Rock of the Church has spoken? And how marvelously his declaration mirrors Jesus’ own simple command to His disciples, “Live on in my love.”
I am certain that before he stood to speak in the midst of the din of argument that pervaded this first assembly of God’s people, Peter heard the words of Jesus speaking to his heart: “Simon, son of John, feed my sheep.” He remembers his call and the Spirit the Lord has placed upon him as keeper of the keys of heaven. He remembers, too, the vision the Savior of mankind brought to his mind, instructing him not to discriminate in his sharing of the Word of God. He therefore reminds his brothers that God “reads the hearts of men,” and particularly of how “He showed His approval [of the Gentiles] by granting the Holy Spirit to them,” just as He had done to those gathered in this assembly. God “made no distinction… but purified their hearts by means of faith also.” And would they then place undue burden upon what God has wrought by His own hand?
Yes, Peter in his pronouncement sings of the “new song” of the Lord and by doing so encourages all to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” He hereby “announce[s] His salvation,” that His glory might be told “among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Here he demonstrates how the Lord “governs the peoples with equity.” The righteous judgment that James makes, now shared in harmony by all assembled, is none other than the judgment Peter has proclaimed – which is none other than Jesus’ own word for all to keep the commandment to live in the Father’s love that all our “joy may be complete,” that all may be gathered into the Father’s kingdom.
Scripture says of the House the Father builds here on earth, of Jerusalem, His Church: “From its ruins I will rebuild it and set it up again, so that all the rest of mankind and all the nations that bear my name may seek out the Lord.” What was the house of David now shelters all the nations – the old Jerusalem has become the new City of Peace held in God’s own hand, His Holy Spirit breathing upon its members and giving them life. By the favor of Christ has this been accomplished; let no man shorten the arm of the Lord.
O LORD, may all peoples be saved
by the love your Son bears to us.
YHWH, it is by faith you have purified our hearts, and it is to love you call us. It is by the Spirit we are saved and drawn into your holy kingdom.
O let the favors of your Son be upon us, dear God! His love beat in our hearts and course through our veins. Yes, let us live in His love and so remain in your joy forever.
Your commandments are not burdensome, O LORD, but lead only to freedom, absolute freedom in the light of your presence. Help us not to take unnecessary burdens upon our shoulders, burdens that would keep us from you and your love. Let us never quench your Spirit at work in our lives.
Work your wonders in our midst, dear LORD, and may we cooperate fully with them, that forever we might sing your praise and bless your holy Name with all our brothers and sisters. In faith may all souls seek your face, and so find it by your grace.
Sat, 18 May 2019
(Acts 14:21-27; Ps.145:1,8-13; Rv.21:1-5a; Jn.13:31-33a,34-35)
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.”
This is the promise on which we set our hearts, this vision of John. This is the word which encourages us to look forward to the coming of our God in the fullness of His presence amongst us. How we long to be His bride in heaven!
John indeed sees the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,” His holy bride. And his ears hear the promise that “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes.” No more shall there be “death or mourning,” no more “wailing or pain” – these things which beset us here shall all pass away. On this glory we must set our sights, for as long as we toil upon this earth there will be tests and trials that can only be overcome with this vision of God.
In our first reading we hear that Paul and Barnabas have accomplished the rounds of their mission journey and “made a considerable number of disciples.” We witness how God “opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” and so to the world at large. All men of all times are now called into the kingdom of God. And here is cause for great rejoicing. Yet the message of these apostles, borne out by their own experience, is that we must “undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” for though the Spirit of the Lord fall on Christ’s disciples, still these disciples are in this world, where the coming of the kingdom has yet to be fulfilled, and weeping at the darkness remains part of our condition.
In this world there shall be persecution, no doubt. Though God’s “kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and [His] dominion endures through all generations,” though Jesus has come and lived and died among us and sent His Spirit for rebirth, though indeed His presence is very much in our midst – yet the evil one enters in; yet he lurks in hiding. And we must be prepared to conquer him, and even to find our salvation by enduring the suffering he devises.
In Jesus we see well the way in which God is with us here and how we come to Him in heaven. The Lord says as His hour of death approaches: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” Even as Judas leaves to fetch the instruments of His death, Jesus sees His glory come. In His crucifixion He shall destroy the devil and come completely to the Father – and even on the cross, God is with Him.
Here we must endure, brothers and sisters, knowing God is with us; and soon we shall come to the fullness of His presence, to “the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.” Soon the Lord will “make all things new,” as new as our spirits have already become.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "In Your Eyes" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us see your kingdom
descend into our midst
through the love of your only Son.
YHWH, let the glorious splendor of your kingdom be upon us; let us dwell in the New Jerusalem with Jesus your Son and with all His disciples. From the ends of the earth gather your Church into your holy presence, that forever we might sing your praise.
Though we must endure many hardships to enter your kingdom, it matters little to those who know the glory that comes through the Cross; in fact, it is cause for us to rejoice. For so long as the Cross is with us on this dark earth, O LORD, Jesus is with us bringing His comfort and peace – and so we know the mourning and weeping will soon pass away… so we see how He makes all things new.
O let us discourse of the glory of your reign! Let us set our hearts on serving your will by bringing others into your gates. Help us, O LORD, to love one another even as your Son.
Sat, 11 May 2019
(Acts 13:14,43-52; Ps.100:1-3,5; Rv.7:9,14b-17; Jn.10:27-30)
“The Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water.”
Joy is our promise in the Lord, brothers and sisters. Absolute, eternal, universal joy. And though we may suffer persecution now, “the time of great distress” upon us but provides the means, the water, by which all saints “have washed their robes and made them white.” “The blood of the Lamb” is necessary to bring us to the kingdom of God.
Paul and Barnabas suffer “violent abuse” today for proclaiming the word of the Lord. But from it comes their turn to the Gentiles, who delight in joy at this call to the kingdom. And these disciples themselves “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit,” despite being expelled from the territory to which they’d come. All is joy in the Lord!
In our second reading, John depicts all the saints who “stand before God’s throne and worship Him day and night in His temple.” Here they are utterly protected from harm, the harm that afflicted them while on earth. No trials exist anymore in this everlasting shelter, for the Lord has “wipe[d] away every tear from their eyes.” These tears, too, are water which cleanses the soul, which makes us robed in white before the Lord.
And Jesus assures us, to our great exultation, that “no one can take [us] out of the Father’s hand,” or His own. He and the Father are one, and no greater power is there under or above the sun. Though threats of robbery besiege our souls as we travel through this world, let us make the Lord’s assurance our own, and have faith that nothing will remove us from His arms.
Our psalmist exalts in the joy that should reflect the song in all our souls: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful song.” So let us search our hearts to find that joy within us and overflowing from us. Let me ask you, brother, sister, did John see you present in his “vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue”? Is the life-giving water of the Lamb washing you clean for that day? Then joy should be yours even where you stand, for even now you stand with Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Everyone's a Baby, Everyone's a Child" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us follow your Son to the kingdom
where He reigns over all.
YHWH, souls from every nation stand before your throne in white robes, for your Son is a light even to the Gentiles; even to these do His apostles speak your Word. Even these are called to eternal life by the Messiah.
Day and night we shall worship in your holy Temple, O LORD, protected by the Lamb at the center of the throne in your heavenly kingdom. What John has seen shall soon come to pass for all those who wash their robes in Jesus’ blood. Every faithful soul is welcomed into His arms, is led into your pasture. And this flock you tend untiringly, your Spirit upon all your children of light.
And why should we care if we should suffer for your sake and the sake of your Name? This persecution but brings joy to your blessed disciples, for in it they share in the sacrifice of your Son and so in the eternal joy of Heaven. O LORD, hold us always in your Hand!
Sat, 4 May 2019
(Acts 5:27-32,40b-41; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Rv.5:11-14; Jn.21:1-19)
“You changed my mourning into dancing.”
Throughout our readings today we witness the glory the risen Lord effects by His sacrifice, the change of fate that comes by the Savior.
In our first reading, though the apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin for persecution, they leave their presence rejoicing, happy to have “suffer[ed] dishonor for the sake of the name.” In our psalm David sings the praise of the Lord for His having brought him “up from the netherworld,” turning his weeping into joy. In our second reading, John sees and hears “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out” the “blessing and honor, glory and might” of “the Lamb that was slain” – perceiving thus the ultimate fulfillment of the Lord’s living sacrifice. And in our gospel, though the apostles had toiled in vain all the night within their boat, and were tired and hungry and disillusioned as morning approached, Jesus stood upon the shore… and at His instruction they caught more fish than they could carry, and were fed by His hand.
The light follows darkness, inevitably. “At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.” It is the maxim of the universe, epitomized by the death and resurrection of the Christ. And so, though Jesus calls Peter from the freedom he has known in youth to the bondage that shall be his as he “grow[s] old,” it is understood that, indeed, by this “death he [will] glorify God,” and thus joining his death with the Lord’s own, shall know the same glorious morn Jesus does now own, and to which He leads all His followers.
Darkness can never overcome the eternal light of our God; of the glory of the Lord the angels and all living creatures sing in heaven even now. And we shall join their voices soon, we shall stand in the ranks with Peter and John and David and all His holy ones very soon. Once we have finished giving thanks to the living God for the suffering we are graced to endure here in His name, we will come to the joy that is ours in Him in heaven. Then we shall dance and sing forever.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Souls at a Carnival" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the blood of your Son cleanse us of sin,
and may our own death glorify you.
YHWH, Jesus was killed by being hung on a tree, but you preserved Him from among those going down into the pit, you brought Him up from the netherworld, and with Him all those obedient to His Word. Now in glory He sits with you upon the throne, and the angels and all creatures in Heaven and on earth and under the earth praise His holy Name. And, yes, those who follow Him here unto death shall come to such glory with Him in Heaven.
To the Lamb who was slain belong all honor and glory and blessing; and to His disciples, to those who lay down their lives that His sheep might be fed, comes the blessing that rests upon Him. O LORD, make us fruitful in your sight! May we help turn the mourning of mankind into dancing and singing before your throne. Forever let us give you thanks for having been found worthy to suffer dishonor here for the sake of your Name.
Fri, 3 May 2019
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, give us our bread this day,
that we might come with your Son
to the farther shore.
YHWH, from death you deliver us; you preserve us in spite of famine. By your own hand you feed us, through your apostles; and them you watch over always as they guide your boat. And so we need not fear – we should but praise your faithful care for our souls, and bodies.
Your Son comes to us across the waters, O LORD, walking steadily though the sea be rough. He is unafraid of the trials and tribulations of this world, caring only that our lives are preserved, seeking always to bring us to our home in you.
O let your Word go forth, dear God, bless those who serve as the ministers of your Church. Our hope in your kindness shall not be disappointed… All shall hear of the blessings upon those who put their trust in you. May all answer that call.
Thu, 2 May 2019
(1Cor.15:1-8; Ps.19:2-5; Jn.14:6-14)
“The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.”
What is the message the apostles preach “to the ends of the world”? What is “the glory of God” that “the heavens declare” and “the firmament proclaims”? It is none other than Jesus’ words to Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me”; it is His answer to Philip: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” The Father “lives in [Jesus] accomplishing His works,” and Jesus lives in His apostles continuing the great work of God.
Here is the Gospel in short, which Paul preaches to the Corinthians in our first reading: “Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures… He was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” He has appeared to all the apostles who preach His Name, who declare His salvation to all men; and He is known to us this day in His Spirit, in His Church, in His Sacraments and in His Word. And indeed it is so that knowing Him we know the Father; filled with His Spirit we cannot but proclaim the majesty of the grace at work in Him through His Church. Standing on the solid foundation the apostles have set, what can shake our faith or keep us from His glorious presence?
Brothers and sisters, on days such as this – and indeed on all days – our hearts should burn intensely with the love of the Lord. Our souls should join with the blessed spirit of these holy apostles and declare aloud the silent Word that “imparts knowledge” to the minds of all. So should our “voice[s] resound” of the glory of God and the grace He has poured forth in our spirits. Let the earth be filled with His light!
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you are seen in your Son;
let Him be seen in us.
YHWH, let us do your works; let us believe in you and bring your Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let us declare with your holy apostles that your Son has died for our sins, and that He is now risen.
Dear LORD, open our eyes to see that Jesus is in you and you are in Him. Truly He is the way, the truth, and the life – by His presence amongst us, we are saved and drawn into life. Let us follow in His way and so become one with you and with the Spirit.
With confidence may your apostles speak, LORD, that your voice might go out to all the world and all hearts might declare that Jesus is God, and that in Him alone we are redeemed. O let us all speak for Him as He comes to us this day!
Make us His brothers in the faith, dear Father, those who see you and know you and do your will. Strengthen us today to do your work, and so find glory in your Name.