Thu, 31 October 2019
O God’s holy ones,
His apostles and martyrs,
His virgins and confessors,
all who have borne witness to Him
with your lives,
who have washed your robes
in His blood,
whose hands are clean
in His sight
and so are clothed in white,
all you who have suffered
under the Cross
in the flesh in this world
and so now stand in His light
in the Spirit
before His throne in Heaven…
O all holy ones of the Lord
from every age,
from every time and place;
from every nation you come,
speaking in every tongue
of His undying love –
please, pray for us, His pilgrim children!
Thu, 31 October 2019
(Rv.7:2-4,9-14; Ps.24:1-6; 1Jn.3:1-3; Mt.5:1-12)
“Everyone who has this hope based on Him
makes himself pure, as He is pure.”
All our readings speak of this purity this holy day. In the first reading we hear of the saints who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Our psalm tells us it is “one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,” who stands in God’s presence. The above quote is from our second reading, and Jesus tells us in our gospel, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Indeed, this purity of heart is the essential characteristic possessed by all the saints in heaven; and so we must strive to achieve it.
I note a striking parallel particularly between our first reading from Revelation and David’s psalm: the reading begins with the image of the four angels (at the four corners of the universe) being prevented from their call “to damage the land and the sea” until the seal of God is placed upon the foreheads of the “one hundred and forty-four thousand [symbolizing absolute fullness in number] marked from every tribe of Israel”; and our psalm begins by proclaiming, “The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” The reading continues with John’s “vision of a great multitude” who “stood before the throne and the Lamb” in their white robes; while, as it continues, our psalm tells us that only the pure of heart “can ascend the mountain of the Lord” or “stand in His holy place.” Then the reading from Revelation cries out, “Salvation comes from our God” and exclaims of the blessings upon the Lord and so His faithful; and David’s psalm concludes that it is he who seeks Him who “shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God his savior.”
What does all this tell us but what John states quite simply in his letter, our second reading: “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” and that when “what we shall be… is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Yes, we are anointed by Him as His own creation and shall come to stand in His presence with all the angels and saints, proclaiming the blessing He is and the salvation He has provided us.
And in our gospel Jesus climbs the mountain and sits and teaches those who gather around Him. And how blessed are these eyes that see Him! How blessed are these ears that hear Him! And how blessed are we, too, insofar as we hear Him this holy day as He calls to our hearts to have faith in Him and in the kingdom of heaven, to set our hearts on the hope of which He speaks. And blessed are we most when we suffer insult and persecution for the sake of the Lord, for by this we are purified, and through this “our reward will be great in heaven.” For we must die in Him before we rise in Him with all the saints in glory.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us be made pure as you are pure,
as your saints have been made pure
in the blood of the Lamb.
YHWH, let us seek you with all our hearts, that we may find you and share in your glory with all the saints in Heaven. Help us to wash our robes clean, that they may be white, that we may be pure and so able to stand in your light. Make us your children, O LORD, blessed to dwell in your sight forever.
If we must be purified by persecution in this world, what should that matter to us, LORD; why should that cause us concern? We should rejoice in this blessing even as we rejoice in the blessing of Heaven, for does not one lead to the other – do we not find Heaven even here, even now, in our suffering with your Son? But give us your love, LORD, and all shall be cause for celebration for us.
O how we long to worship you in your kingdom, LORD! How we long to bow before your throne with all your angels and saints. How we long to sing your praise with them. Let it be so, LORD. Let it be so even this day in our souls.
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.
O LORD, openly your Word speaks to all men’s hearts,
calling them to salvation.
YHWH, how shall the senseless mind of man be redeemed? If it turns from you, the Creator of all, to give praise to senseless creatures, will it not be ever as blind as they? Trapped in its own contrivances, it shall never see the light of day or hear the Word of Truth. And so, to these faithless souls the Gospel will be so much foolishness, as in foolishness they die.
Your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and is revealed in all Creation. But men who cannot see beyond the flesh quench the Spirit even as they engage in the destruction of their bodies. For the purity of your Creation they pervert, and so fail to stand in your holy light. O LORD, let us cleanse the inside of our cup that we might come to your glory!
Your eternal power and divinity help us to recognize, that filled with knowledge of you, O God, we may keep our hearts from being darkened by the false worship of this corrupted age.
Sun, 13 October 2019
(Rm.1:1-7; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.11:29-32)
“You have a greater than Jonah here.”
Greater than any prophet is He. Wiser than Solomon is the Lord who is the source of all wisdom. For it is He of whom the prophets speak; it is His promised coming “the Holy Scriptures record.” The fulfillment of prophets and kings is in our midst. Our high priest is with us offering the sacrifice of Himself. Let us thirst for Him as the Ninevites did for Jonah’s preaching and seek Him as the queen of the South for Solomon’s wisdom. Let us listen to His servant and apostle Paul as he proclaims the Gospel of God and come to “obedient faith” with all the Gentiles “who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Salvation is upon us as it is all nations.
If Jonah’s preaching was great, the Lord’s is the greater. If he converted thousands, Jesus turns millions to the love of God. If Solomon was wise, our Lord is so much the wiser. For though this great king spoke well of all things of the earth by the grace of God, the Christ comes now with the wisdom of the richness of heaven. And so now we are all “called to holiness, grace and peace.” It is these gifts which are imparted to us “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And by these blessings we become His children, greater indeed than any prophet or king of old.
Yes, the fulfillment has come. “The Lord has made His salvation known.” “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” His Word is brought forth even now, even this day to our hearts in the preaching of the Gospel that is Christ Jesus – “His resurrection from the dead” signals the redemption of all mankind. And so we celebrate. And so we “sing to the Lord a new song” as we, too, participate in His death and resurrection with the beloved apostle Paul, even as we come to the table set before us by His grace and holiness.
May that same “Spirit of holiness” which made Jesus “Son of God in power” now touch our souls and separate us from all that is unholy. May we respond in kind with the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching, that they might not condemn us on the last day for our lack of faith. May the wisdom which comes to us now by the grace poured forth from His lips sink into our hearts and find a place in our lives. For no greater than He shall we find; let us not be blind to this sign.
O LORD, how blessed are we to hear the Gospel! –
let us repent and reform our lives.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son. He indeed is our salvation, the very life of those who follow Him, who listen to His preaching and reform their lives – who join themselves to Him and to His Church. May we not be condemned for our deafness to His call but set our hearts on the wisdom that comes to us through Him and through His apostles, that indeed we might be saved and rejoice in your presence on the day of judgment. With Him let us be raised from the dead.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to the ends of the earth that His Gospel might be the source of salvation for all souls. Let peoples come from the furthest corners of the world to hear that your promise has been fulfilled in your Son and the Spirit of holiness is now upon all who are obedient to His call. For this grace let us sing your praise, O LORD!
Sat, 12 October 2019
(2Kgs.5:14-17; Ps.98:1-4; 2Tm.2:8-13; Lk.17:11-19)
“All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.”
“The word of God is not chained.” It cannot be imprisoned. It is free. And it cannot be limited by national boundaries; it is for everyone. The universal call of salvation is made most clear in our readings today: in our first reading, Naaman the Syrian is healed of his leprosy, and in our gospel a Samaritan is healed of the same. Both are foreigners and essentially enemies to Israel, but it is these two we hear of today to make clear that the Word of God and His power are unbounded.
And when these foreigners are healed, they return praising God; they make clear their faith in the Holy One, much to the shame of those who are native to His House, who may often lack such recognition of the Lord and His work in their lives. This is perhaps the greatest message of today’s readings, that we must be as the Samaritan who, “realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and… fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.” For this is what the Lord desires of us, thanksgiving, a sacrifice of praise. How clearly this is shown in Naaman as well, whose offerings of gifts are repelled by Elisha, the man of God, “despite Naaman’s urging,” but who will not leave without earth from the land of Israel, declaring, “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except the Lord.” The Lord desires of us our praise and worship of Him only, and when we come bearing this gift of ourselves, He says to us, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
And it is unto the end we must remain faithful, praising God for the graces He gives, if we hope to “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.” We should hear in Paul’s teaching in our second reading of the means to salvation and the means to condemnation. The Lord “remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” He is God; He holds salvation and glory. If we persevere with Him, dying with Him, giving all our selves always to His service, “we shall also reign with Him.” It cannot be otherwise because the Lord indeed blesses those who come to Him. But “if we deny Him, He will deny us,” and this cannot but be, too, for He cannot dwell with untruth.
The Lord’s Truth extends to the ends of the earth now; His Word goes forth to all, and in all salvation may be known through Jesus Christ. But who will trust in Him and fall at His feet in praise of Him as they find healing for their sin? Let it be so with us all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Numeric Truth" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us give you thanks and praise you
for your healing mercy.
YHWH, it is by faith alone we are saved, and all souls are called to faith in you; and any soul with faith you will accept into your fold. To all the ends of the earth your salvation is revealed – may men come from every land and every tongue to worship you alone.
O LORD, let us not be weak in faith; let us not be put to shame by the great devotion shown to you by those who have been foreigners to your Word. Let us join them at the feet of your Son and give thanks for the grace and healing you shower upon us by His presence.
There is so much of which we need to be healed. How shall we lose our blindness to your glory shining all around us? When will we cease taking you for granted, and so hardening our hearts in a vain pride? Your wondrous deeds are upon us, LORD; your Word is preached to all mankind. O let us respond in faith and humbly worship you!
Fri, 11 October 2019
(Jl.4:12-21; Ps.97:1-2,5-6,11-12; Lk.11:27-28)
“Near is the day of the Lord in the valley of decision.”
And so, “blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” For though “sun and moon are darkened and the stars withhold their brightness,” though “mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” “light dawns for the just,” and for them “the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.” Yes, “the heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to His people.”
Are we His people? Are our hearts set upon Him? Are we blest as our Mother with keeping the word of God, of putting it into practice, of giving our yes to all His words, and His commands? Are these commands sweet as honey, are they the new wine we drink each day? From Him do we find our daily bread? Though we are in His Church and have the blessed breasts of this great Mother to nurse us, though we are here where the hills of the Lord “flow with [His] milk” – though we have at our hands the Body and Blood of the Lord and the true teaching, the Word of God, in our ears by His grace upon this House of God, do we truly appreciate these gifts He provides: do we eat and drink unto our salvation and keep His word as an ever flowing stream of life in our souls, at the heart of our beings? “The channels of Judah shall flow with water,” as now they do. Do we wash ourselves clean in that water that “issue[s] from the house of the Lord”? Are we prepared for the day of decision?
Let us rejoice in Him, brothers and sisters. “Be glad in the Lord, you just, and give thanks to His holy name.” With the psalmist let us raise our song and proclaim His justice to all the peoples. For what should we have but joy as we take refuge in His promise, as we come to the table of the New Covenant each day and share even now in the life He offers forth through His holy sacrifice. And let us pray to our Mother, Mary, that we shall be as she is, that we shall be so true to the Lord and serve as His handmaidens amongst the world. May she keep us close to the nourishing food the Church holds for all her children; and may our decision be as firm as hers as we give our unfailing yes to the Lord and so know His grace and blessing.
O LORD, if we but keep your Word,
we shall be blessed on the Day Jesus comes.
YHWH, you dwell on Zion, your holy mountain; may we dwell there with our Blessed Mother.
The mountains melt like wax before you, O LORD. The heavens and the earth quake, but you are a refuge to your people. Truly blessed are all who make their home in you, who do your will in this world. And so, as sun and moon are darkened, as this world you reduce to dust, may we be gathered into your arms, to the breast of our Mother.
Let the heavens proclaim your justice, LORD; let all holy souls give thanks to your NAME. For light dawns through the darkness for the upright of heart, and your children abide forever in your presence even as their enemies are destroyed.
Blessed let us be, O Holy LORD, to follow where your Son does lead, for He leads us only unto you. O may we hear and keep your Word! Blessed Mother, pray for us.
Thu, 10 October 2019
(Jl.1:13-15,2:1-2; Ps.9:2-3,6,8-9,16; Lk.11:15-26)
“It is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!”
And we must be prepared. We must rend our hearts and not our garments. We must “spend the night in sackcloth,” repentant of our sins. We must “proclaim a fast” and “cry to the Lord,” “for near is the day of the Lord.”
The prophet Joel sounds this alarm several hundred years before Christ, and in truth it proclaims the coming of Christ. For it is His coming that separates the wicked from the just; it is He who “judges the world with justice” – it is by Him the names of the wicked are “blotted out forever and ever” and those who “declare all [His] wondrous deeds” find their salvation.
The day is coming and is already here, for the Lord declares in our gospel, “The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.” He makes clear the works of Satan, which do not bring healing but only sickness and death, and the works of “the finger of God,” which overpower and “cast out devils.” Here the judgment is come; here it begins. In the end it shall be fulfilled and the great divide between evil and good will be set for all eternity, but here and in this time the Word of Truth goes forth, calling all souls to leave behind all sin.
But, brothers and sisters, our fasting must be complete; our weeping, our repentance, must be genuine. We must turn entirely from our sins and make place only for the Lord Jesus Christ to live in the houses of our souls. If the Lord lives in us, there is no place for darkness. If the Lord is within us, no devil can dwell there. But if in hypocrisy we pretend a conversion, we expand the space for the devil’s dwelling in our homes. For the two are indeed mutually exclusive: the Lord has nothing to do with the devil, and the devil nothing to do with the Lord. And so if we hope to stand on the day when darkness covers the earth, “spreading over the mountains, like a people numerous and mighty”; if we hope to remain when the Lord returns with His myriad of angels to judge the earth and the thoughts of men’s hearts… we must enter His grace this day – we must now call upon His Name. There is no other way, my brothers and sisters. You must be with Him or against Him. The choice between life and death is presented before you; for the day of darkness is nigh. Choose His eternal light!
O LORD, your Day is at hand –
let us make room in our hearts only for you.
YHWH, your throne is set up for judgment; near is your Day. Soon you will come to destroy all the wicked, that in your presence the just might shine. Your Son you have sent to redeem the world, to call every soul from its sin, but failing repentance what shall happen to us on the great and terrible Day of His return?
Forever you are enthroned on high, O LORD, and who can approach your glory? What hope have we of uniting with you, of looking upon your face, we who have been so sinful? How shall we come into your House and there find eternal rest if we do not wholeheartedly accept the cleansing Word of your Son?
If there is any pretense in us, we shall not stand with Him. And so, O LORD, let us fast and pray for all devils to be cast from us that we might forever sing your praise.
Wed, 9 October 2019
(Mal.3:13-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.11:5-13)
“For you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
Both our psalm and first reading make clear the distinction between the blessed and the condemned: “The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes,” our psalmist declares. The wicked are “like chaff which the wind drives away,” while the just are “like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” Malachi proclaims the same. Where the Lord is healing rays of warmth to the just, for the wicked He comes “blazing like an oven… leaving them neither root nor branch.” For one, His fire is holy and life-giving; for the other, it destroys.
And what is the sign that we “fear the Lord and trust in His name”? Malachi speaks of “going about in penitential dress” and states, “They who fear the Lord spoke with one another, and the Lord listened attentively.” Our psalmist tells us the just “delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on His law day and night.” We must be repentant of our sins and come humbly before Him. We must recognize, as Jesus tells us, that we indeed are ones “with all [our] sins.” This is first. But most importantly we must trust in Him and turn to Him, and pray in His Name. For “the heavenly Father give[s] the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” He is not remiss in making them His own. He wishes all to be blessed and come before Him whole. But we must not fail to seek His will, to seek His way, to beg it of our God. We cannot be remiss in asking and seeking and knocking, for this persistence proves our love of Him and of His way, and by it we will find Him.
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more important or more powerful than prayer. It is our way of coming to Him and becoming one with Him. It is at the heart of the distinction “between him who serves God, and him who does not serve Him.” For all that we do will come to naught if not done in His presence, and it is only by prayer we enter the presence of His holy light. First and always we must have faith, yes. First and always we must believe. But now and ever we must seek Him; forever we must ask His grace to come into our lives. And He will hear. He will “give [His] children good things.” So neglect not to remain in the presence of God and your reward will be assured, and you will know the blessed light of His face.
O LORD, give to us the Holy Spirit,
that in all things we might follow along the way
of your Son.
YHWH, we ask for your grace and mercy, your compassion upon our souls, that we might not be burned up with the wicked on your holy Day but stand blessed in the light of your face. Let us be healed of all sin and come to serve you with all our hearts, leaving behind all doubt of your glory and trusting in your goodness toward us. For you have made us and we are your own if we but have faith in you and come humbly before you with our petitions.
Yes, let us ask you for what we need, for all good things, those in accord with your will. If our hearts are set on serving you and others, what will you not give us? For then we will truly be your sons. But, O LORD, if we should turn our sights upon the advancement of our own name, seeking to prosper by doing evil, the wind shall indeed drive us away, and we shall perish in unholy fire.
Tue, 8 October 2019
(Jon.4:1-11; Ps.86:3-6,9-10,15; Lk.11:1-4)
“Your kingdom come.”
“You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish.” How beautifully Jonah speaks of God’s blessed compassion on His people. And how poorly he is able to accept and live that grace. The Lord’s forgiveness extends now to the ends of the earth; let us not be loathe to offer it unto all.
In our first reading, Jonah is angry with God for His mercy in forgiving Ninevah, the pagan empire and enemy of Israel. But the Lord teaches Jonah that He watches over these, too, not only Israel, signaling His universal call to salvation (which shall be fulfilled in the teaching of Christ). By comparing the city of Ninevah to the plant “that grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort,” the Lord instructs us that not only does He care for all nations, but indeed that all nations have a holy call, a blessed purpose, in which God Himself takes pleasure and comfort. He has raised all the nations and each is called as a member of His kingdom.
This word should give us great understanding of the graciousness of our God, and great joy in knowing that we are called by Him: “You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” We can join with David in his prayer, knowing that God will “attend to the sound of [our] pleading” even as He does this blessed king of Israel; even as He listens to His chosen people, so He listens now to us, for the walls of division have been cast asunder and His love now extends to all.
But we must not be as Jonah shows himself to be today. We must “forgive all who do us wrong” or the Lord will not hear our prayer to “subject us not to the trial.” If we harbor anger, it will mean our death; and the Lord will send “a burning east wind” and a sun to beat down upon us, too, to draw us from the hardness of our hearts and the condemnation we breathe in our souls. Our vision must be that of God, who sees that sinners “cannot distinguish their right hand from their left,” or as Jesus says from the cross, “They know not what they do.” And so we, too, must forgive.
Let us join in prayer today, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s kingdom may come to earth. Let us rejoice that His reign extends to all. For it is the Lord’s desire to “forgive us our sins,” and it is His will that all find refuge in the shade of His presence. And so we partake of “our daily bread” here in His Word and in His Sacrament; and so we live the kingdom of God.
O LORD, let our prayer rise up to you, the Most High,
who are merciful and kind and forgiving toward all
and hear us when we cry out to you.
YHWH, you are abounding in kindness toward all, a gracious and merciful God desiring to show clemency to sinners, to lead them from the death upon their souls to a holy life in you. For this what can we do but praise you? What can we do but say: let thy will be done!
But how often we keep your mercy from others, dear God; how often we expect it for ourselves yet refuse to share it with those who seek it from us. This is not your will. In this your kingdom does not come. For where forgiveness is withheld, your love does not exist; and where your love does not exist, you are not present.
Let us not die in desolation, O LORD, beneath a scorching wind and a burning sun. Open our hearts to share your compassion and we shall find relief from all the trials we bring upon ourselves by our lack of pity, by our condemnation of others.
Mon, 7 October 2019
(Jon.3:1-10; Ps.130:1-4,7-8; Lk.10:38-42)
“He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do them;
He did not carry it out.”
Ninevah is spared. Because “they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth,” because they repented of their sin and called “loudly to God,” He did not punish them for their iniquity but forgave them and withheld “His blazing wrath.” And so this pagan city finds God’s mercy through the preaching of Jonah.
We are all called to repent. We are all called to turn to the Lord and seek His forgiveness and grace to overcome and be spared of punishment for our falling short of His glory. Our psalm declares, “Let Israel wait for the Lord, for with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption.” And so to find His mercy we must have faith and we must be patient. We must be as Mary in our gospel today, seated at His feet, listening to His words. We cannot remove ourselves from this place and hope to find salvation for our souls any more than the Ninevites could have taken a break from their sitting in sackcloth and ashes to have a snack and yet hoped to find the forgiveness they so desperately needed. Our fast must be total, our obedience complete. Do you think Mary had a mind to rise as she listened to her Lord? Do you think she was distracted by anything? Certainly not. And we in our prayer and in our work and in our lives must find the commitment she embodies if we hope to know the grace of God truly working in our hearts.
Indeed, the Lord “will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.” Indeed, He hears the voice of all who cry to Him “out of the depths” of their sin. He will come and wash us clean; He will come and make us new. If we choose “the better portion,” we “shall not be deprived of it” and its reward. But it must be our whole hearts that turn to the Lord, that are set on His word… that heed His preaching as it comes with its grace to our ears.
If we are short of prophets today, listen more closely, brothers and sisters. If it is difficult to find the Word preached with the power and blessing of Jonah, open your Bibles and turn to your hearts. Sit still before Him in silence and He will fill your soul with His light. And fail not to come into His presence where the people gather for Mass. The Word shall indeed fill you; His Bread shall indeed nourish you. And your soul shall be saved according to your commitment to Christ.
O LORD, let our hearts be set on you
and your presence;
may our ears be open to hear your voice.
YHWH, let us turn to you with all our heart that we might find forgiveness of our sins and peace in your presence. If in sackcloth and ashes we cry out to you in repentance, you will look kindly upon our souls; if in silence we sit at your feet, what shall we not be taught? All is ours if we make ourselves your own.
O LORD, all nations you call to yourself. There is no one for whom you do not care, whom you would not save in your mercy. And so you send your prophets forth even to the ends of the earth, and so your Word goes out to all places and times – and so all who listen to your voice find redemption for their souls and enter your holy Temple.
Your ears listen for our voice calling out to you; your heart longs for us to set aside all things and worship you. O LORD, let your gracious will be done in all our lives that none shall perish in separation from you.
Sun, 6 October 2019
(Jon.1:1-2:1,11; Jon.2:2-5,7-8; Lk.10:25-37)
“A Samaritan who was journeying along came on him
and was moved to pity at the sight.”
First let me note that the book of Jonah is not a parable, not an imaginary story, as popular scholarship would have us believe. How do I know this? I have faith, yes, which those who would explain away any miracle of God so sorely lack; but I know it, too, by Scripture itself. For elsewhere the Lord compares Himself to Jonah, and states explicitly that the people of Ninevah – who had the faith to repent at the preaching of Jonah – will rise on the day of judgment and condemn those of Jesus’ time, and us, for our failure to repent at the words of the Son of God. It is not possible that imaginary people could condemn others’ souls (the very idea is absurd, of course, but such are our minds in this “enlightened” age), and this comparison would suggest that Jesus Himself is but imaginary, which seems not against the belief of the vain prophets of our day.
In today’s gospel we have a parable: The Good Samaritan. It begins as the universal story all parables are – “There was a man…” (“a man,” any man, every man), and its express purpose is to impart a lesson. And the lesson today is God’s universal love. The dreaded “Samaritan” represents nothing but faithlessness and sin to the Jewish mind, but Jesus demonstrates that it is sinners He calls – and that those thought of as sinners indeed often show the greatest faith. We see this not only in our gospel, but also in our reading from Jonah, for notice how quickly the pagan mariners turned to their gods, who are no-gods, to seek deliverance from the “breakers” and “billows” which pass over them. Indeed, it is they who arouse Jonah, who has fallen asleep in the despair of his separation from the will of God, to pray to his Lord. And what horror overwhelms them when they hear how he has disobeyed the Lord’s command – “How could you do such a thing!” Who has the faith here? Who convicts whom of sin?
Though Jonah is clearly different from Jesus in this his sin, he is like Him in a crucial way – he sacrifices his life for those in danger of death. Notice his words: “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, that it may quiet down for you.” And so it does when he is finally cast forth (after remarkable, faith-filled prayer by these pagans); and so also these men “offered sacrifice and made vows” to the Lord, coming it seems to faith in God following Jonah’s laying down of his life. And, of course, as Jesus will spend three days in the belly of the earth, so Jonah spends three days in the belly of the whale; and as the Lord will rise on the third day, so Jonah is “spewed upon the shore.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord heard Jonah’s prayer from “the midst of the netherworld,” “from the belly of the fish.” Do not doubt and test the Lord as the lawyer who seeks “to justify himself” in his pride. In your moments of darkness, come to the Lord as the humble servant He calls you to be, and He shall assuage your doubts, He shall be moved with pity looking upon you, and teach you of the love and compassion only He knows.
O LORD, how shall we be saved from the pit
into which we cast ourselves
if we do not have compassion for the plight of others?
YHWH, we have fallen into the pit, beaten and left for dead by robbers, by the demons, for our sin. The breakers and billows pass over us and we are doomed to drown in the dark of the deep.
But you are merciful, LORD, truly compassionate to all in need. And so you look upon our troubled state and send us help when we cry out to you – our prayer, even from the midst of the nether world, reaches your holy Temple, and you have pity on our poor souls. For this let us ever praise you!
And to what do you call us but to be compassionate as you, to love you and to show that love by loving our neighbor as ourselves. For we are all one in you and so if we are in you we will see that helping others we indeed help ourselves, and please you greatly by our love, by such awareness of our oneness in you. May all our being worship you, O LORD! Let us live your will of love and compassion.
Sat, 5 October 2019
(Hb.1:2-3,2:2-4; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; 2Tm.1:6-8,13-14; Lk.17:5-10)
“The vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”
And we are servants of this Gospel.
And so, with faith and in patience we must accomplish “what we [are] obliged to do.” We must serve the Word of God. Never hardening our hearts against the voice we hear, rather, we should “stir into flame the gift of God” we are blessed with as Christians, as Catholics; “the Holy Spirit that dwells within us” should be our refuge and our guide – it should be our stronghold despite any “destruction and violence” we witness before us. For we know that if we endure till the end, till the fulfillment of the vision of the Gospel, though we deserve it not, the Lord will call to us when we “come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field and say, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table.’” Indeed, He has promised in His mercy and His glorious benevolence to put on His apron and serve us, His “unprofitable servants,” at table in the eternal kingdom. But have we the faith to believe? Have we the patience to endure? Listen to His assuring words: “Wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” His Word is certainly true and the vision written “clearly upon the tablets” of our hearts, if we believe.
And we show our faith when we “sing joyfully to the Lord,” when we “bow down in worship” before Him in spite of any “clamorous discord” that surrounds us in this world. In such praise in the face of the darkness of evil we bear “hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Yes, He alone is our strength; it is from Him alone that we find the faith and patience to endure and produce fruit upon this earth. So, “let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds.” Though we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” with the prophet Habbakuk, we know that if we listen to the instructions of the Apostle Paul to “take as [our] norm the sound words [we] heard from [him],” “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” we shall endure, and we shall find answer to our prayer.
The vision is coming to fulfillment. The Lord of all is with us now. Let us “not be ashamed of [our] testimony to our Lord,” but proclaim with courage the word the Spirit prompts in our hearts – Jesus is Lord! Let us say it. Let us not be afraid of it or its consequences. Let the truth of God cross our lips even as it stirs the faith within us. Jesus is Lord, and His Kingdom comes. Do not delay your service of Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Duty" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us bear the hardship of the Gospel
that we might look upon your face.
YHWH, you call us each day to love and to serve you that we might know your love in our hearts even this day. It is our great grace and blessing to do your will, for then we share in your glory, in your presence among us today.
If we had but faith, O LORD, what is there we could not do in your Name? If with patience we waited for your coming, we would know how near you are. Help us to fan into flame the gift of your Spirit that makes us strong in holiness. O let us accomplish all you command, never turning our faces away!
We have seen your works; we have done your works. We have spoken the Word you have placed in our hearts and on our lips. Let us not now doubt that you are God or think that any power of this earth holds any sway in our lives. Let us trust only in you, dear God, for your promise is on the horizon and you do not disappoint.
Fri, 4 October 2019
(Bar.4:5-12,27-29; Ps.69:33-37; Lk.10:17-24)
“He who has brought disaster upon you will,
in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”
That enduring joy which comes to us after this time of trial is our theme today. Not only does Baruch come to it in his exhortation for the people to “fear not” anymore but to turn to God and be glad, but it is David’s song as well: “You who seek God, may your hearts be merry!” he exclaims as he assures us that “God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah,” which were once “left desolate” “for the sins of [her] children.” Yes, as Baruch encourages Israel, “Fear not, my children; call out to God!” so David confirms that “the Lord hears the poor.” And from all their sins He shall save them.
And does not our gospel tell us the same. In it we are told that “Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit” and gave the Father “grateful praise,” saying, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children.” To His children, to the humble, to the poor, He reveals Himself. And what can those who are blessed so, to see “what many prophets and kings wished to see” – what can we do but rejoice in His Spirit? For He has given us “power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy, and nothing shall ever injure” us. For sin no longer holds sway in our lives as it once did when we turned in the hardness of our hearts from the face of God and so were “handed over” to our foes. Though once we “forsook the Eternal God,” we now return to Him; and so the “mourning and lament” suffered because of our sin now become joy in His eternal presence.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice so much in the fact that the devils are subject to you as that your names are inscribed in heaven.” We should rejoice not so much in the gift as in the giver, not so much in the power we have as in Him who gives the power. For great and wonderful as the overcoming of evil in this life certainly is, its entire purpose is to bring us into communion with the Lord in the New Jerusalem, in His heavenly kingdom. “Those who love His name shall inhabit it,” so let us join with Jesus in the Holy Spirit to praise the Name of the Father and the great blessing of life He imparts to us. And we shall find redemption from the punishment of our sins and rejoice as children in His presence forever. Amen.
O LORD, the Son has made you known,
and we may see Him, and we may hear Him –
let us turn from our sins!
YHWH, great mourning has come upon us because of our sins, but great hope we have in you who desire our salvation. Great joy is ours as we turn now from our sins and seek you ten times the more. You are ours as we come before you on our knees, and the joy you bring us will last forever.
O God, you are eternal, dwelling in unending light. And as that light comes to our eyes, what can we do but rejoice with your Son that your poor ones you bring to glory? In Heaven our names are written by your loving hand, in the blood of your merciful Son; all He has He has given to us, revealing even your presence, dear Father.
What power has Satan over your faithful ones, those whom you bless with your power and love? The Spirit has set us free from all bonds that we might walk with you, eternal LORD.
Thu, 3 October 2019
(Bar.1:15-22; Ps.79:1-5,8-9; Lk.10:13-16)
“We have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard His voice.”
Woe is upon us for our sin. We “have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed Him,” and so “the evils and the curse which the Lord enjoined upon Moses… cling to us even today.” And if we do not recognize our sin, as Baruch does so beautifully in our first reading today, if we do not admit our failure to “heed the voice of the Lord,” realizing and repenting of our going “after the devices of our own heart” rather than following in His holy way – if we do not accuse ourselves of “evil in the sight of the Lord,” He will accuse us on the day of the judgment, as He does with Chorazin and Bethsaida in our gospel… and the woe upon us then shall be interminable, as we are “hurled down to the realm of death” with the cursed Capernaum. But if we turn to Him, if we cry out to Him as does Baruch, as does our psalm this day, declaring the evil and destruction that has come upon us for our sin, that same “reproach of our neighbors” which has “laid Jerusalem in ruins” will be removed from us – the Lord will “remember not against us the iniquities of the past,” and we shall preserve our souls on the day of judgment.
“They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem”: great is the suffering which has come upon the Lord’s wayward children. It seems at times the Lord will be angry forever for the sins committed by the perverse heart of man. But we know that His “compassion [will] quickly come to us,” that His anger lasts but a moment, it is only for a time, and that He shall indeed “deliver us and pardon our sins.” This has He done in Jesus, in His sacrifice, and word of it now is preached to the nations. If we accept it, we save our souls from destruction, from eternal damnation; if we reject the word of the Gospel, we reject Jesus, and we reject Him who holds the world in His creating hand – and so what hope of life have we, who have cast Life aside so wantonly… and so “burn like fire” forever only can the wrath of the Lord, our God.
Let us reject sin while there is time. As His Word is still in our hearing, let us come to it and bare our souls before its truth “in sackcloth and ashes.” The condition of this world of sin does not change, and it mounts up its punishment for judgment day. Let us come out of the world, humbly professing our sin, and listen now to the voice that leads us to forgiveness and grace, to exaltation “to the skies,” standing at His side forever.
O LORD, let us not reject you!
but come rather on our knees seeking forgiveness.
YHWH, the gravity of our sin overwhelms us: our blood is poured out like water, our corpses given as food to the beasts of the earth. How shall we make amends for our wicked deeds if even the presence of your Son and His sacrifice do not move us to repentance? O save us from being hurled down to the realm of death! Let us not reject the Word come from Jesus.
O LORD, let us heed your voice. Though we have been disobedient, though the evils that fall upon us are but just punishment for turning our hearts from you, help us, please, to avoid the grave, to be preserved from the fire that is coming upon the earth. Remember not our iniquities; let them be of the past. Let your compassion come quickly to us to raise us from our lowly state. In sackcloth and ashes let us bow humbly before you that we might find pardon for your NAME’s sake.
Wed, 2 October 2019
(Neh.8:1-12; Ps.19:8-11; Lk.10:1-12)
“They understood the words that had been expounded to them.”
What a blessed day we hear of in our first reading. And what a blessed reception the Word of God finds in the hearing of the people! For “the whole people gathered as one man” and “listened attentively to the book of the law” of Moses as “Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion” and “read out of the book from daybreak until midday.” And we know that all the people indeed understood the wonder of what was read to their humble, obedient hearts, “for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.” They wept for the truth of these words, and for the fact that they as a people were so long without their instruction. The truth of God’s Word brought repentance to their hearts, as it should to all.
But ultimately the Word of God caused them, as all, “to celebrate with great joy.” Certainly this is its ultimate goal. For as David sings so well of in our psalm today: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” And the rightness of this wisdom brings “rejoicing [to] the heart.” For as rich as the food and sweet the drinks the people were encouraged to consume that day as celebration of the glory of God, none could compare with the commands of the Lord, which “are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.” This bread of life is that which sustains us.
And it is this bread of peace and life the Lord sends the disciples to bring to the cities before Him in our gospel today. He tells them that as they declare peace to any house or town along the way, “If there is a peaceable man there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.” And woe to those who do not welcome the reign of God these disciples bring in Jesus’ name. Indeed, we hear that “the fate of Sodom will be less severe than that of such a town.” If the Israelites were so open and welcoming to the Word of God read in their midst from the book of the law by Ezra the scribe, how much more welcoming should these people who have the emissaries of Christ Himself, sent to “cure the sick,” be to receive the reign of God at hand. And how much more should we be open to receive His Word, who now know of the Lord’s resurrection to glory and have the Holy Spirit in our midst by the authority given to His Church on earth. Brothers and sisters, we must hear and understand as well as they of Nehemiah’s time, else what hope have we for celebration in Christ’s glory? May His sweet words be in our ears and in our mouths, and so may we bleed with Him unto glory.
O LORD, your Word brings the sweetest tears
of blessed repentance.
YHWH, how sweet your Word should be to our ears, to our hearts – O how we should welcome it! Though it bring knowledge of our sin, that knowledge is sweet, for that knowledge brings us to repentance and refreshes our souls. Though we weep, though we cry for our transgressions, how sweet are our tears! For it is these tears, this turning from our sins, that brings us into your presence, that brings your reign into our midst.
O how we should welcome your Word, LORD! Once it came only through words in a book; once it had to be read aloud and interpreted for our simple hearts to understand. But now it comes in flesh and blood in your only Son and in the apostles He sends out to proclaim your glory among men.
Indeed, your reign, O God, is at hand. Your grace has come to us as a Man. And so let us rejoice this day, for it is thus made most holy.
Tue, 1 October 2019
(Neh.2:1-8; Ps.137:1-6; Lk.9:57-62)
“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”
Our home is in heaven. “The foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” the Lord tells him who would follow His way in our gospel today. Our home is in heaven, and only there do we find joy. And only finding our place there should possess our hearts.
We have a sign of the devotion we must have for the Lord and His Kingdom in our psalm and first reading. Even as the psalmist hangs up his harp and weeps “by the streams of Babylon” for his exile from Jerusalem – “May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy” – so, too, Nehemiah is most “sad at heart” for his separation from and the ruination of “the city where [his] ancestors are buried.” And as the king takes pity on his servant and sends Nehemiah to help rebuild Jerusalem, so, too, does the Lord look upon those who seek in ardent desire their true home with Him in heaven. He knows we are sad at our separation from the kingdom of God; He knows only there we shall find peace in our hearts, and so He calls us along the way He walks.
But also He warns that all else must be set aside if we are to discover that which our hearts desire. “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.” Does love for the New Jerusalem truly possess us as did love of the old for these exiles in Babylon? Do we, too, recognize our own exile, our own homelessness, and seek with all our souls only the song that is sung in the kingdom of God? Are we prepared to leave this land of exile, this foreign land in which we find ourselves, to come to Him to build with the wood He provides the new walls which will be our shelter and our place of worship even in this life? Or do we look back to this world of sin and find ourselves drawn into its sad state?
The Lord awaits the turning of all toward Him and His kingdom. He desires greatly our returning to His side. The thought of our heart to give up all for Him He confirms with His blessing and love. But we must be clear that this commitment is total, that nowhere else we shall find our joy but at His side in heaven.
O LORD, let us not be separated from you
but give all our lives to following in your way,
even to the Cross.
YHWH, let us set our hearts on you alone and our coming into your kingdom. Why should anything else possess our souls? Of what else should we sing? Should we not proclaim your glory with full voice and so find your reign upon us? We cannot make our home in any place but Heaven; help us to overcome the sadness of dwelling in this dark place, in this land of exile. Bring us quickly into your presence.
Your House let us rebuild, O LORD, your House and your City. Let your favoring hand be upon us this day as we seek to accomplish your will. All else let us be ready to leave behind in order to do your work upon this plane. For only in you will we find our joy – hear us as we pray to you.
Let us not be dead, O LORD, dead to your presence in our midst. Let our hearts burn with love for you! Let us remember your NAME forever.