Sat, 31 August 2019
(Sir.3:17-18,20,28-29; Ps.68:4-7,10-11; Heb.12:18-19,22-24a; Lk.14:1,7-14)
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.”
Is this not the message of Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel, and indeed of all our readings – and indeed the essence of our Christian lives? “Take the lowest place.” Exalt not yourself in the sight of God, who sits at table with you, whose presence is everywhere, and is a guest far greater than you. Give your place to the poor, provide for them out of your means, as He has done, and then you will know the glorious vision of heaven where He dwells.
The Pharisees are blind to the presence of Jesus; because of their pride and desire for esteem, they cannot see the guest of honor in their midst. They observe Him carefully, ready to judge Him, but it is He who sees them and seeks to instruct them in their ignorance. The Lord is most out of place here among the proud. He looks around for lowly ones, but finds none. The poor have not been invited to this feast; the blind here do not recognize their need for Him… and so this banquet is not like that of heaven. And so, who of these will partake of His Body and Blood and come to “the heavenly Jerusalem”?
“God gives a home to the forsaken,” David declares in our psalm, and we are called to be like God. Jesus makes this quite evident in His instruction to the host of the banquet: “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” who are unable to repay such kindness, and then “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This attitude of self-giving we must make our own, knowing our own lowliness in the sight of God, and the vision of heaven of which our second reading speaks will be ours as well. Then we will come with the “countless angels in festal gathering” and “the assembly of the firstborn” into the presence of Jesus and the holy blood of His sacrifice. “The just rejoice and exult before God,” and with them we too shall rejoice, if we make ourselves humble before Him.
It is no mystery that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” No, the teaching is clear, and only by living it will we find its fruit, brothers and sisters. “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts,” Sirach instructs us; for how can you find favor with God (or with anyone) if you have no respect for Him? And if you do not see the greatness of the God before you, how shall you enter His kingdom?
Our place before God is with faces to the ground. This is just. This is right. By this He will be pleased and so lift our heads to gaze upon His countenance.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Humbled and the Exalted" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us always to take the lowest place,
that you might call us up to you.
YHWH, you give a home to the forsaken and call us to do the same; as you have provided for our needy souls – though we deserved it not – so you call us to care for others, or we shall not find our place with you.
We are truly lowly, dear God, for before you, who could stand? How can we hope to sit at the same table as your only Son and partake of the food He provides? Yet to His side He calls us; to be lowly as He is our great gift. His grace we shall know, and in abundance, if with Him we lay down our lives for those in need.
Then we shall come to your holy mountain, to the heavenly Jerusalem with all your angels and saints. Washed in the blood of the Lamb you offer for our sakes, emptied of all the vanity of our race, we shall be exalted and chant your praise, dearest LORD, we who have made ourselves humble and lowly before you, we who have thus found our place at your table with Jesus, and been made perfect by His Cross.
Mon, 26 August 2019
(1Thes.2:1-8; Ps.139:1-6; Mt.23:23-26)
“First cleanse the inside of the cup
so that its outside may be clean.”
The Lord rails against the Pharisees again today, calling them from false practice to genuine faith; and in Paul we again see the paragon of true ministry in the Lord’s Name.
In our gospel the Lord calls the Pharisees “frauds,” for they have the appearance of holiness in clothing and posture and minor actions, but inside are “filled with loot and lust.” In our first reading, it is quite evident that the preaching of Paul “does not spring from deceit or impure motives or any sort of trickery,” as does the work of the Pharisees. He is not at all guilty of “flattering words or greed under any pretext,” seeking the glory of God rather than “glory from men.” This, of course, is the central question: do we perform our acts for others to see, from selfish motives of pride and greed and the accolades we might gain from man; or are we laying down our lives for God, giving no thought to our own importance or the opposition we may face? Does our work and our life spring from truth, or does it spring from lie?
“O Lord, you have probed me and you know me,” David sings in our psalm today. Truly the Lord is “the tester of hearts.” He is familiar with all our ways and the motives whence they come. Indeed, “even before a word is on [our] tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” Inside and out He sees us, He scrutinizes us, that He may enter into us and renew us. It is by His grace that the inside of the cup might be made clean and so our work be fruitful in His Name.
And so, what of us, brothers and sisters? What does the Lord see when He peers within our hearts, when His penetrating gaze pierces our soul? Do we meet “the test imposed on us by God” as Paul does and live in “justice and mercy and good faith,” or is there but corruption within us which will not allow the Lord’s light to enter, thus making us blind to His grace?
The Lord surrounds us so, that we call out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.” Indeed, the Lord is far above and beyond our comprehension and His holiness can seem beyond our ability to attain; but if we have hearts that are open and trusting and loving of His Word, we find that He is “gentle as any nursing mother fondling her little ones,” that He, in fact, shares with us His very life, and so makes us as His own. The Lord will cleanse the inside of the cup. Let Him act upon your soul.
O LORD, you see clearly the inside of our cup,
and would cleanse it by your gaze.
YHWH, you are the tester of our hearts; you scrutinize all our ways. And you know us – you know us well. The greed and deceit within us we cannot hide from your watchful eye. You are not fooled by empty show.
You surround us with your presence, LORD, and test us by our trials. You are far beyond us in eternal glory, and yet you come near. You draw near to us in your Son and so declare to our souls the truth of who we are and what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But you do this not for our condemnation; it is because you love us as a mother her child that you chastise us. It is to make us whole.
O LORD, though knowledge of you is too wonderful for us to comprehend, though great fear fills our souls as you come to us with your piercing fire – though your scrutiny may cause us great humiliation, great suffering, you work gently to heal our hearts of all their affliction.
Sat, 24 August 2019
(Is.66:18-21; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Heb.12:5-7,11-13; Lk.13:22-30)
“People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”
“I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory,” even those of “distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory,” says the Lord. The Word goes forth. The Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and it will open the eyes and ears of all peoples. But who shall be ready for its coming?
Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy and the verses of our psalm are in harmony with the Lord’s own words: all the nations shall come, all shall “praise the Lord,” and all shall find a place in His kingdom. The light that goes forth, the glory of the Lord, knows no boundaries, is not limited by constructs of time and place – there are no walls in its way. All nations. All tongues. All peoples at all times and in all places are called forth by the all-encompassing love of our God and our Savior. You are welcome at His table, my brother, my sister, whomever you are, wherever you are. It is the Lord’s will that all come to Him who is the Father of all nations and of all creation. But do you know the way?
The way of the Lord is not easy; it is narrow and rough – it is one wrought with chastisement, with discipline. “For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” And how can you expect to come into His paradise if the soil of this world still clings to your soul? The cross is the way to the kingdom; only the scourging discipline of the Lord will enable us to sit with Him.
And this discipline, this cross, is of love. Do you see this? Do you see how much the Father loves you in His reproof of your sin? “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” If you have not learned this basic lesson of the working of the Lord’s love, you “will not be strong enough” to enter His gate. You must “not be disjointed but healed” as the Lord takes from you all that is unfit for His presence. Your suffering the loss of this life is all that will bring you to heaven.
We note that even the above words of the Lord are as chastisement to the Israelite people who walk with Him, for He is telling them they are not alone in the call to God; other nations shall indeed enter before they. And as this pride in their heritage must be wrested from them before they are prepared for the kingdom, so all that limits the love of the Lord from working in our lives must be taken from us before we may enter in. Fear not the pain this brings. The “wailing and grinding of teeth” outside His gates is more painful by far – and for this suffering there is no healing anymore.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Are No Words" (middle part) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, teach us always to do what is right
that we might be as your sons
and enter into your House.
YHWH, all peoples are called to your glory, to your kingdom, for all are sons and daughters to you. But truly you must be our Father, we must come from you, we must reflect your image, the image your only Son reflects to us in His way of the Cross, if we are to enter your presence. Relying on accidents of time or place we shall never be saved. Only by accepting the discipline you offer will be made ready for Heaven.
Strengthen us, O LORD, by the chastisement you bring to our souls, by the Word of truth come from Jesus’ mouth. He knows you and is the way to you – let us be obedient to His call and the call of His apostles to enter through the narrow gate, to leave all of this world behind that we might come rejoicing to your holy mountain with all our brothers and sisters, with all your blessed children. May all men hear your Son’s voice this day, that none shall be barred from your kingdom.
Sat, 17 August 2019
(Jer.38:4-6,8-10; Ps.40:2-4,14,18; Heb.12:1-4; Lk.12:49-53)
“Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the Lord thinks of me.”
Persecution is necessarily a part of every Christian’s life. Not many of us will struggle “to the point of shedding blood” as has Jesus, as has Paul, as have all the apostles; and not many of us will be thrown into muddy cisterns as is Jeremiah… but all will remain “afflicted and poor” in their striving against sin and have to endure “opposition from sinners” as they grow in holiness before their Lord and God. Jesus is anguished at the baptism He must endure in carrying the cross of division set in opposition to the forces of sin in this world, and so all who call themselves Christian take this same cross upon their shoulders. If we do not suffer for the faith, we must question whether we have become lukewarm and worthless, but to be spit from the mouth of God.
Division must necessarily come as we follow in the steps of Jesus, “the leader and perfecter of faith.” As the princes of the people were set against Jeremiah for his prophesying in truth against the nation, spelling out the danger it faced for its sin, so opposition will come to us even from friends and family as we seek to draw closer to Jesus; for the world is set in opposition to the cross, and any who yet cling to it and its sin will inevitably be insulted by our resistance to its ways. And so persecution comes to those who remain faithful to the ways of Christ.
But your hearts should not be troubled, brothers and sisters, for though the world of sin encompasses us now and often closes in, we indeed have a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding us with their protection. As Jeremiah had Ebed-melech to intercede with the king to draw him from the muddy mire, so we have Jesus now to intercede with the Father for us to lift us out of the dark cistern that is the world. And not only Him do we have at our side, but all those who have suffered with Him – all the saints and all the martyrs, all the apostles and prophets – who stand at His side in the heavenly kingdom and with Him reach down to assist us.
So fear not, little ones, remember Jesus: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame.” He “has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God” and we shall soon join Him there with all His angels and saints if we but endure the persecution with Him now a little while. The Lord thinks of those who are afflicted and poor. He blesses their sacrifice and makes it fruitful (by which we may draw even sinners unto Him). Continue ever to run the race of faith.
O LORD, lift us up from the pit
and baptize us with your fire.
YHWH, opposition from sinners we must indeed endure if we are to be called by the Name of your Son. The Cross we must carry through this world if we are to come to where Christ is at your right hand. If we are lowered into a muddy cistern, what should that matter to us, as long as we ourselves are not guilty of sin.
Should we not take great strength in the suffering of Jesus and all those who have followed Him so faithfully to the Cross? Have they not proven that you come, O LORD, to save those who cry out to you? We shall be delivered even from death by the grace upon your Son, and so why should we fear the shedding of our blood?
Your sword of truth cannot but divide the evil from the good, those who look to you from those who take their refuge in the things of this earth. Let your fire come, dear God, and burn away all sin from our midst, that all your afflicted and poor may rise from the ground blessed.
Mon, 12 August 2019
(Dt.31:1-8; Dt.32:3-4,7-9,12; Mt.18:1-5,10,12-14)
“It is the Lord who marches before you;
He will be with you and never fail or forsake you.”
“Do not fear or be dismayed,” little ones, the Lord is with us and watches over us. Just as it was He who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, so it is He who leads us now into His “heavenly reign.”
In our first reading the Israelites stand poised to attain that which they have been so long promised. Centuries after God’s call to Abraham and at the end of forty years wandering in the desert, the time has come for them to enter in and take possession of the land the Lord has set aside for them. As they look toward their heritage on the other side of the Jordan River, Moses encourages them: “It is the Lord, your God, who will cross before you.” “The Lord alone was their leader,” brothers and sisters; and now it is Jesus alone who shepherds us into the kingdom we look upon with bated breath, for which we patiently prepare ourselves. It is He who has crossed before us in His death and resurrection and now faithfully guides us into His Father’s reign.
And just as Moses commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites: “You must bring this people into the land which the Lord swore to their fathers He would give them,” encouraging him to be brave and trust in God… so Jesus commissions His disciples to lead His sheep, and especially those who are lost or straying, into the kingdom of God – encouraging them to remain humble always, to make themselves lowly like a little child. And His commission extends, of course, to us today; in these readings we hear His voice.
As for “these little ones” of whom Jesus tells us, “I assure you their angels in heaven constantly behold my Father’s face,” are we not they of whom He speaks? Are we not His innocent doves in need of the Church’s wisdom and guidance to find our place in the Lord’s kingdom? And certainly even those who lead the flock are members of the flock themselves, for ultimately it is always the Lord who leads, and all must come unto His presence. Let us be assured, little flock, let us take blessed comfort in the Lord’s care for His people. “It is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.” So let us be as children before Him, beholding the face of God. This is His will for all our souls; let us walk confidently with Him, knowing His love and His blood will never fail us. The kingdom awaits our coming.
O LORD, only as a child will we enter Heaven,
for only as a child can we stand in your presence.
YHWH, make us humble and innocent as little children that you might lead us by your mighty hand into the land you promise all your lowly ones. How shall we behold your face if we are not obedient to you, if we do not seek your glory by humbly doing your will? Bless your people with your presence.
Send us leaders, LORD, to guide us to your kingdom, to shepherd us to your holy mountain. Your power be upon those you send to stand in the place of your only Son, that all might find salvation. Help us to have faith in you, to know that as you have been with us until this day, so forever you will remain, destroying our enemies before us, setting us free from all sin.
Let none of your children be lost, dear LORD, but come quickly to their heritage in you. O let us be brave and steadfast! remembering ever it is you who go before us.
Sat, 10 August 2019
(Ws.18:6-9; Ps.33:1,12.18-20,22; Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.12:32-48)
“You also must be prepared, for at an hour
you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord.” Though we do not know the day or the hour of His return, we must always be ready for His coming. As the ancients, the Hebrew fathers and especially Abraham the father of faith himself, we must ever be seeking our heavenly homeland. By faith the ancients, who saw the promise only from afar, “awaited the salvation of the just”; by faith Abraham “sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country.” As he dwelled in tents, nonetheless, “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.” With the incarnation of Christ, and in His death and resurrection, what greater assurance have we of that which we hope for. We now have Jesus speaking to our hearts: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” How much more are we called to follow His way in faith; how much more we should now be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when He comes and knocks.” If the Lord finds us “vigilant on His arrival,” how blessed will we be. If we have distributed well the food He has put in our charge here, if His work we have accomplished according to His word, we shall ourselves sup at the table the Lord prepares for us in the heavenly homeland. But all we are given here, all the graces and blessings which are ours through Jesus and through His Church, we are responsible for; by them we must bear fruit in patience and in faith, Peter first, as the first of servants, and all of us beneath his charge in proportion to “the food allowance” placed in our hands for distribution at the proper time. (This refers primarily to our priests, but we all do share in the priesthood of Christ, and all are graced with a measure of the flesh of Christ to share with the world.)
“Exult, you just, in the Lord,” for what was held “in secret” by “the holy children” of times past has now come to light in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we await the second coming of Christ with a “sure knowledge” far surpassing the one granted our fathers. We are “the people He has chosen for His own inheritance,” and a promise so sure should spur us on to a readiness that is meet to such a wonderful gift. The Lord is coming to sit us at table at the place He now prepares; let us “make preparations” of our own, remaining ever the servants of Christ, that we shall not be taken unawares when it is time to fold up our tents in this world and join the Lord in glory. Hear Him knocking even now at the door of your hearts.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Readiness Is All" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our hope is in you;
may we patiently await the coming of your kingdom.
YHWH, how we hope for your kindness to deliver us from death, to save us from our adversaries, even from our very selves. We place all our trust in you – O may our faith soon be rewarded!
If we but had the faith of Abraham, dear LORD, blessed as he would we be, with no fear for the impending darkness, with hearts set solely on your coming light. The salvation of the just let us await with steadfast hearts, knowing well that you are faithful to all your promises and that you have promised a heavenly dwelling to all who seek their place with you.
To this earth let us not be attached; all of this world let us offer freely to you. You are our only treasure, dear God – you are all that is worthy of our concern. And so, let us await your Son’s return with loins girded and lamps burning. Let us be ever vigilant for His coming, serving well your holy will all our days, and our inheritance we shall find in you.
Thu, 8 August 2019
(Dt.4:32-40; Ps.77:12-16,21; Mt.16:24-28)
“The Son of Man will come with His Father’s glory
accompanied by His angels.”
The Lord God came to “take a nation for Himself from the midst of another, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with His strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors.” As He came with power to rescue the Israelites from the bonds of Egypt, so He will come at the end of time, and is come now, to save us from this world of sin. Indeed, the Son of Man shall come fully into His Kingship on the last day and “repay each man according to his conduct.”
How shall we secure a place in His kingdom? Moses tells the Israelites, in his final address to them before they enter the Promised Land, “You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,” and that they “must keep His statutes and commandments.” Then they will be blessed and prosper. Jesus tells us in our gospel, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps.” As it was then, it is now, only the road is more straitened for the goal is more blessed: now it is even unto death we must be obedient to His ways; but now we find not only life on the land, but glory everlasting.
“Among the people you have made known your power,” proclaims our psalm today, and indeed our first reading recounts the “wonders of old” the Lord wrought in the midst of His people: with their eyes they saw His “great fire,” and with their ears they “heard Him speaking out of the fire.” It is, of course, the presence of Jesus we see before us now and hear speaking in our hearts by the fire of the Holy Spirit. He makes His power known to us now in a far surpassing way. And if we wish to know the glory of God burning in our midst and leading us to the eternal kingdom of light, we must be made holy by its power. “O God, your way is holy,” our psalm states, and if we wish to follow in His way, we must be holy as He.
The Lord is coming with His holy angels. He shall soon be here in all His glory. Now He has left us a blessed cross to place upon our shoulders; it is this most wonderful of signs by whose testings we are led in power to the eternal reign of our Savior. As intimately as you know His humble cross, as closely as you follow His sacrificial path, so well will you know His Father’s glory.
O LORD, your greatness is revealed to all;
let us dwell in your light.
YHWH, how great were your deeds in bringing your chosen people out of Egypt! What wonders you worked among them. To them you showed that you are LORD and there is no other.
But how much greater is the presence of your Son among us this day and the deeds He has wrought for our salvation. How much more clearly you speak to us now, LORD, through the wonders He works – and how perfectly your glory will be known when He returns accompanied by His angels! There will be no greater deeds to be worked when that Day comes.
But until that Day let us walk with you here; let us take up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus, keeping your Word that we may prosper in good deeds ourselves and come finally to the Land you promise, to eternal life, our eyes looking upon your surpassing glory.
Sat, 3 August 2019
(Ec.1:2,2:21-23; Ps.90:3-6,12-14,17,95:7-8; Col.3:1-5,9-11; Lk.12:13-21)
“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Yes, “all things are vanity!” without God. All is empty, for “like the changing grass” our life “wilts and fades”; we are turned “back to dust,” and so what becomes of the earthly desires we pursue? Where do “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” lead us but to the grave – and what do they do for us here but keep our hearts from what truly matters?
See the difference between the man in our first reading who “labors under the sun” in “toil and anxiety of heart” and those in our psalm who “shout for joy and gladness” all their days, for the latter say to the Lord, “Prosper the work of our hands,” putting all things into the care of Him who indeed holds all things in His loving embrace. One’s heart is set on “what is on earth,” and so he is blinded by the flesh into which he puts all his hopes. Like both the man in the crowd and the one in the parable of our gospel, his sights are set on his possessions and the feeding of his belly – both of which shall rot away. The other’s heart, however, is set on “what is above.” He is rich in “what matters to God” because he has died to the vain things of this earth, dying with Christ to their illusion and, so, rising with Christ to the life and glory of heaven. As one sinks into hell, the other rises to newness of life “in the image of [his] Creator.”
In what image is our own life made? What do we pursue with heart and soul as we tread this earth? Are we consumed by the mud at our feet, miring ourselves in selfishness and sin; or do we indeed rise above the greed which tempts our hearts to “eat, drink, be merry”? If we are truly raised with Christ as we proclaim as Christians, we would be seated at God’s right hand with Him, knowing that He is our only refuge, our only God. But so many are distracted by the idolatrous images that surround us in this world. So many desire to be rich and famous, to satiate their appetites in gluttony and drunkenness, to do what pleases their flesh in sexual immorality. And what shall become of these but that the worm shall consume them and they will cry out with Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”
Brothers and sisters, with Jesus and with Paul I encourage you to find the treasure that is meaningful in life. Set aside the earthly passions that drown the soul, and seek what is alive with Christ. We have a great call in this world to bring the Lord’s light and life forward, to make Him present in our own flesh, in all our work. With Him in our hearts, nothing is done in vain, for such “bountiful harvest” as this is stored up for heaven, which shall never pass away. Let us make His resurrection our own; even as we die to the empty desires of this earth, let us rise unto God as a holy sacrifice.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Addictions: What Do You Say?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let our lives this day be in line with your will,
united to the glory of your only Son.
YHWH, let us not store up treasures for ourselves, but think rather of you and the salvation of others. All is indeed vanity if like Qoheleth we set our sights on what is on earth, if we are preoccupied by our possessions. For these shall rot with the lusts of the flesh and we shall die with them. But if we set our hearts on you and on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at your right hand, then we shall be blessed with life everlasting.
Your Son calls us to glory with Him in Heaven. He warns us of the emptiness of this earth and the riches hereon. He would turn our eyes to you and away from all greed and selfishness. He alone can prosper the work of our hands, LORD, for without Him we pass like the changing grass and nothing comes of our days.
O LORD, let us not labor in vain but with the wisdom that comes from above, that we might not come to great misfortune but to eternal life in your presence. Remake us in the image of your Son.
Fri, 2 August 2019
(Lv.25:1,8-17; Ps.67:2-5,7-8; Mt.14:1-12)
“It is really the number of crops he sells you.”
The earth is the Lord’s; it is not our own. And it is only by His grace that we share the fruits of the land. “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us,” our psalm declares. These fruits may be bought and sold, but the land is God’s own.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.” “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” The jubilee year delineated in our first reading makes clear that we are God’s and not our own or anyone else’s. While we tread this earth, in the forty-nine years leading to the jubilee, land is bought and sold, even slaves are made and taken. But come the jubilee the trumpet is blown and all return whence they came: in this moment we go back to our homes and find the truth – that we are God’s alone. All that is bought and sold is only temporary; these crops are consumed and pass away. The land from which they come is in God’s hands and does not pass away. To it we must return. For He is our portion and cup.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Indeed, we should fear Him who holds the earth and all its peoples in His creating hand. We should not presume upon God’s mercy and “deal unfairly” as we buy and sell in this world with all that He provides. In our gospel Herod is gripped by fear because he knows he abuses the power given him; he is struck to the heart by John’s preaching because his sin is exposed to the light. But instead of proclaiming liberty, instead of returning to the Lord, he hardens his heart against Truth, presumes license and not liberty, and has “John arrested, put in chains, and imprisoned.” But, of course, the Word of God cannot be chained; and Herod is not entirely wrong when he claims John has been “raised from the dead” in the person of Jesus, for the same Spirit which worked in this most fruitful of men comes forth fully in the Son of God. Good reason has Herod to fear.
And it must be noted that the beheading of John does not bring his end, but his beginning. It returns him to the land whence he has come. It is as his jubilee, his time to “return to his own property” – to enter the kingdom of God. For his body buried by his disciples is but as the crops bought and sold (and a more fair and abundant dealer in the fruits of this earth the world has not known); it is, of course, his eternal soul which finds liberty now in the land of the Lord.
This world cannot hinder the fruits that are of the Lord. In faith let us remain in Him, producing an abundant yield in His Name, that the way of the Lord “be known upon earth,” and that we may come to His salvation at the time of Jubilee. (We shall hear the trumpets resound through the halls of heaven.)
O LORD, there is a land
to which you call us to return,
and this heavenly homeland is all that matters.
YHWH, the earth is yours and all that it holds, and you call us ever back to you. Let us not be possessive of the gifts you give us but remember that the yield of the land is in your hands.
O LORD, you proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land; you call all back to yourself, from whom we come and in whom we find our freedom. Your call to our hearts to glorify you we must heed, if we are to find your blessing.
But if like Herod we harden our hearts against your truth, LORD, if like him we seek to chain your Word with our corrupted hands… if to death we put your call, what shall be left within us? Then in what fear we shall tremble!
Your Prophet comes and walks amongst us; your power is upon Him for good. The trumpet resounds throughout the earth, calling all men to their ancestral homes. To you let us come with nothing but exultant joy at your presence.
Thu, 1 August 2019
(Lv.23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37; Ps.81:2-6,10-11; Mt.13:54-58)
“Offer as an oblation to the Lord holocausts and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”
Our first reading and our psalm speak and sing of the honor due our God. The Lord outlines for Moses “the festivals of the Lord” which must be celebrated “at the proper time with a sacred assembly,” and our psalmist exhorts us to “blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast” in honor of the one true God. We should worship no god but Him and “hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work” on His sabbaths and on the days He sets aside for celebrating His Name. Due honor and praise must be given our God.
But when Jesus comes into the midst of His people, due honor is withheld. Though they cannot deny His teaching, the wisdom and grace He imparts, yet they are blind to His presence before them. They do not know whence He comes. They cannot see that He is of God. And so because of their limited vision, their “lack of faith,” He cannot touch them or heal them as He passes by. Here He stands in their synagogues, but the shout of joy does not go up from their midst because their hearts are shut tight to the divine presence of the Lord. The due praise they are moved to is thus denied, and they break the Law of God.
It is sad when justice is not done to our God. We are the ones who would benefit most from offering due sacrifice and oblation – He has no need of our holocausts – yet we commit this kind of suicide by reserving the honor due Him, resisting thus truly entering His marvelous presence and becoming one with the One who created us and saved us. He invites us to the feast, to the glorious celebration, but we turn down His invitation to join Him at the table of His Body and His Blood. Each day it is prescribed for us to give our souls to Him; in every place the cup of salvation is raised unto the glory of God: here the festival of the Lord is fulfilled in our midst. But how many say they see but bread and wine, they hear but empty phrases. Their hearts are not set on His coming.
We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters; we are His mother. We are those who recognize His presence and give glory to His Name. The world cannot see Him; the world does not know Him. But we know Him. Let us “take up a melody, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp and the lyre,” and with all the music our lives can produce give Him glory in our celebration… with all the work we do and all the rest we take each day in Him. Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation. Here the feast begins. Let us come into His presence singing for joy.
O LORD, let us believe in you and worship you,
and we shall be blessed.
YHWH, let us worship you as is due; let us give praise to your NAME and each day celebrate your glory in our midst. Every day a sacred assembly we may now hold, now that Jesus has walked among us, now that He is present to us upon your holy altar; and so, let us welcome Him into our house and sing praise for the blessing He is to this place.
To the teaching of your Son let us listen, LORD; He has come in the flesh with your wisdom and power. Let us not question His origin but know He is from you, as He shows with all He says and does. Why do our corrupted souls condemn the Man who comes only to save? Why do we not see that God is here with us?
Remove our weakness, LORD, the blindness of our human eyes, that we might with all our hearts keep your festival at the proper time, for the day of atonement is upon us.