Sat, 30 November 2019
(Is.2:1-5; Ps.122:1-9; Rm.13:11-14; Mt.24:37-44)
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that He may instruct us in His ways,
and we may walk in His paths.”
“Beat [your] swords into plowshares.” “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” and to “stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” And even now He calls you to “go up to the house of the Lord” and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Advent has come, and so we are reminded of the Lord’s coming and our need to be prepared. He will not come in vain, and will not accept any vanity into His kingdom. His is a kingdom of light into which no darkness enters. His is a place of peace where “rivalry and jealousy” and all “the desires of the flesh” find no provision.
If in the days of Noah they were blind to the time of their visitation, and so “the flood came and carried them away,” how can it be the same with us, who have the first coming of Christ in the manger and on the cross to stir us to wakefulness? If we live now as in the days of Sodom, how much greater will be our punishment? If we allow our house to be “broken into” though we have His voice calling to our hearts, what could make us think that He will take us with Him when He comes again?
It is indeed time to wake from the sleep of sin and “stream toward… the Lord’s mountain.” There we shall rejoice in His grace as His “relatives and friends”; there we shall find the light of His teaching. “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and it shall fill the earth with holiness.
The Lord has been born in our midst. The Word has been made flesh and walked among us. Now we are called to become like Him, to walk in His ways of peace. And so when He returns at the end of time, we will be prepared to “set foot within [the] gates” of His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can We Go Together?" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your Son
until He comes.
YHWH, let us go up to your House, where we shall find our peace, where we shall find the instruction we need to leave behind all deeds of darkness and enter into your holy light. When your Son returns for us, let us be awake and ready to welcome Him, and He will welcome us into your kingdom.
O LORD, let all the nations come to your holy mountain, to the place of wisdom and peace, that all weapons of destruction might be themselves destroyed and war might be no more. Let not any nation raise the sword against another, and let no man fall again into sin. Let us be trained for peace, not war; purity, not lust.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that it shall extend to the ends of the earth. In this time let it come and dispel all rivalry and jealousy, all the works of the flesh. Your Spirit reign upon us, O LORD; let your Son come to carry us to you.
Thu, 28 November 2019
(Dn.7:2-14; Dn.3:59,75-81; Lk.21:29-33)
“The beast was slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.”
Daniel prophesies the coming of pagan empires in his vision of the four beasts. The vision is, in short, an overview of the coming salvation.
Notice that even as Daniel watches the beasts emerge with their horns and tusks and great iron teeth, even as he watches these terrible creatures devour and crush and trample in a kind of destructive euphoria… what does he see? “Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took His throne.” The Lord God, the Eternal King, is there. (He is never far away.) And the arrogant horn is cast into eternal flame, and the other beasts lose their dominion, too, though they received “a prolongation of life for a time,” indicating that a measure of the wickedness of such beastly empires – several of which we have seen very clearly in the last century – shall remain. But, nonetheless, there is “one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” and He indeed receives “everlasting dominion,” a “kingship [that] shall not be destroyed.” Like the Father in His eternal reign is the Son, who has come into our midst and even now winnows away the chaff of this world.
That even as evil presumes to reign the Lord is at work, is assuming His eternal reign in the heavenly kingdom, is evident in Jesus’ words to the disciples in our gospel. He has told them to watch for the terrible signs which will come upon the earth and bring its destruction, and equates the recognition of these signs and wonders of the end time with the budding of a fig tree signaling the coming summer. Jesus is the fig tree, the peace that is born even in the midst of war, the love that grows though surrounded by hatred – the light that overcomes all darkness.
“The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Though the mountains fall into the sea, the Lord’s heavenly reign but comes to fulfillment. Then all creatures, all “beasts, wild and tame,” “everything growing from the earth” and all “seas and rivers” will “praise and exalt Him” whose kingdom lasts forever.
O LORD, the myriads ministering to you
overcome the power of all beasts,
and by your only Son their fate is sealed
and the kingdom comes forever.
YHWH, your reign is near, always at hand. Despite the beasts which remain for a time, your Son has come and conquered all darkness. There is no death or sin in Him, no power that evil has before Him, and so those who find their life in Him shall indeed endure forever. Heaven and earth are passing away but His dominion is everlasting.
Thank you for sending your Son to us, dear God, to cast all evil to the dust, to teach of the kingdom to come. In Him indeed summer is near, a time of great fruitfulness – the time when we shall share with Him in the eternal fruits of Heaven. Peace is upon us, though the destruction of war be all around.
And so, what can we do but praise you, LORD of Heaven and earth? All your creatures can but sing of your glory and bless your holy NAME. This day let your fire burn all our sins away. Alleluia.
Wed, 27 November 2019
(Dn.6:12-28; Dn.3:59,68-74; Lk.21:20-28)
“Your ransom is near at hand.”
“He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” And as “He delivered Daniel from the lions’ power,” so He shall save our souls from the destruction to come upon the face of the earth.
The king’s prayer is answered: “To Daniel he said, ‘May your God whom you serve so constantly, save you.’” And when the lions’ mouths are closed because of David’s innocence before God and men, Darius in awe of the living God writes to the nations that the kingdom of the God of Daniel “shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be without end.” Another pagan king is brought to his knees in truth… “Praise and exalt Him above all forever”! Indeed, “let the earth bless the Lord.”
But it is deliverance which is our theme today. Daniel is delivered from certain death in the lions’ den, and our Lord speaks to us of the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the end of time – “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” – and of our means of escape from annihilation. Yes, we must flee the devastation that is near, flee to the mountains from the midst of the city, not linger behind in the land of Sodom as the angel comes to guide us to safety. Indeed, we must lift our heads to the sky even as its powers are shaken and all comes crashing to the ground but the strength of our God. For on that Day He will be made manifest, and on that Day, if we “stand up straight,” our deliverance from sin and the powers of this world will be joyously known by our eternal souls. And we shall celebrate as did the king and Daniel upon the holy man’s removal from the lion’s den – and we shall praise the Almighty’s name with “nights and days,” with “lightnings and clouds,” with all the elements of the Lord’s universe. Alleluia!
Fear not, brothers and sisters, “in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.” Even as you are called, so you must be – to be “clever as snakes and innocent as doves” (Mt.10:16). Follow the saints’ examples in simple obedience to the Shepherd’s voice and, harboring no ill will toward your persecutors, be prepared to lay down your life if it be in the Lord’s will, knowing full well that He will rescue you.*
* For this final thought I credit St. John Chrysostom and his wisdom, as found in this morning's Office of Readings.
O LORD, you are coming with great power and glory –
praise your holy NAME!
YHWH, we need not fear that the lion’s mouth will close upon us. Though the heavens be shaken and darkness cover the land, with your Son we may stand tall. Anticipation of His coming, joy at the salvation He brings – the eternal peace that follows in His wake – will keep us strong on the Day of judgment. From the den of the lion we shall be freed.
The end must come, we know, O LORD. All these things must pass away. May we stand in innocence before you on that day, and so live with you forever in your kingdom. In this city let us not desire to remain, but with your Son let us fly to Heaven.
O LORD, let all hearts turn to you before that great and terrible Day; let even the kings of this world recognize you as the one true God. Send your angels throughout the earth to work your wonders and save all holy souls from destruction.
Tue, 26 November 2019
(Dn.5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28; Dn.3:59,62-67; Lk.21:12-19)
“You will be brought to give witness.”
“Daniel was brought into the presence of the king.” And what did this wisest of men have to say to this pagan king who ruled the earth? “You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven.” He did not hesitate to tell him of the emptiness of his “gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence.” And, remarkably, not a hair of his head is harmed; even this pagan ruler recognizes the truth of his words, and accepts that he will lose his kingdom.
“Before kings and governors” you will be summoned, “all because of my name,” says the Lord. Yes, witness must be given to “the God in whose hand is [our] life breath and the whole course of [our] life.” The world must come to know Him; light must be brought into the darkness. Is this an easy task? Certainly not. It may be glorious insofar as the Lord blesses our words, insofar as we trust in Him, not worrying about our “defense” beforehand – but the darkness resists the light; the world does not wish to hear of its sins, nor to be called to turn from them. Turning from sin is a painful process, and rather than endure its throes there will be those who would prefer to impose such persecution upon those who call to the depths of their hearts. Unwilling to suffer conversion, they make others suffer for their righteousness.…
All the apostles underwent martyrdom: our Lord rules from a cross. But though we may not escape punishment from those to whom we are called to speak, as has Daniel the prophet, yet as Daniel surely “not a hair of [our] head will be harmed.” For though we be killed for the Word of truth, yet our redemption awaits us: in heaven’s light all is whole. And the rewards offered Daniel even by this pagan king will be as our own in paradise.
“I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict,” our Lord assures us. Let us trust in this gift of faith and witness, and praise with “sun and moon” and “stars of heaven” Him who is “exalted above all forever.” Let us never fear to speak of our God and His hand at work in our lives.
O LORD, if before kings we speak the truth,
yet will our lives be spared,
for your Son indeed rules over all.
YHWH, your dew from Heaven falls upon us and we are given words and wisdom. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to stand before kings and governors and give witness to your glory. And though our words may accuse those to whom we speak of their failure to worship you, yet not a hair of our heads shall be harmed, even if we be executed. For Jesus has died on the Cross, yet He lives forever. And now His Spirit reigns over all who put their trust in you.
By patient endurance may our lives be saved, O mighty LORD and God. To you let us ever turn our sights, and our spirits shall not be defeated. Rather, the kingdom of those who mock your glory shall be divided and brought low.
O may we not be found wanting on the day you judge the world! All the gods of silver and gold, wood and stone, let us set aside to praise you alone, our Savior and our God.
Mon, 25 November 2019
(Dn.2:31-45; Dn.3:57-61; Lk.21:5-11)
“The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once,
fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer,
and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace.”
So shall the kingdom of this world be destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it”; so shall Jesus come – the Son of God, the King of kings – and make all things subject to Himself. And when shall this be? It has happened, and is happening, and will happen soon: fear not in your hearts. Simply praise the Lord of the universe.
There will be no trace of this world remaining when the Lord does come. He shall be the stone that “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth,” which “shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them.” And by whose hand shall this be done? “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people.” And so, if accomplished by the hand of God and not by man, why do we look upon the “wars and insurrections,” “plagues and famines,” and become fearful, as if these shall bring the end? No, “the end does not follow immediately.” We cannot state the time any more than could Daniel, the greatest of all interpreters of dreams and visions. So why are we misled when many come in the Lord’s name saying, “I am He” or “The time is at hand,” as if these could force the hand of God?
Let not the “fearful omens” and “great signs” perturb you, brothers and sisters. These are for those without faith as a warning to turn to God, but for those with faith they should prove no disturbance. Our souls should be set on Jesus, who surpasses all these things – even the temple “adorned with precious stones” – and whose coming we should see clearly in our hearts. Is He not at work in you? Are you not His children? Then why fear these things which are “bound to happen” to the earth? You should “praise and exalt” Him who is “above all” with the “angels of the Lord” and the “heavens.” Let your hearts rise up to Him.
Yes, “the day will come when not one stone will be left upon another, but it will all be torn down.” And in that day the Lord will reign supreme. Set your sights upon His majesty.
O LORD, not one stone will be left upon another;
all will become as dust –
then shall come the eternal reign of your Son.
YHWH, your hand shall crush all things of this world; your right arm shall see to it that the gold and silver, the riches of the earth, all pass away. When your Son returns, all this shall be accomplished. Let us stand ready and waiting for that day.
Why should we fear, O LORD, the destruction of kingdoms? Why should we lament even the temple’s fall? For what is anything of this world in comparison to your glory? Your glory is indeed above earth and heaven and shall never pass away.
With the angels let us praise you, LORD. With all your disciples let us glorify your NAME. You alone are holy, you alone are worthy of praise, and this lesson we must learn if we are to be saved.
And so, on the day when there is not one stone left on another, let us not be anxious or afraid. Though wars and earthquakes come, let our hearts be set upon you, LORD, and exalt your kingdom as it draws nigh.
Sun, 24 November 2019
(Dn.1:1-6,8-20; Dn.3:52-56; Lk.21:1-4)
“To these four young men God gave knowledge
and proficiency in all literature and science,
and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.”
God is the giver of all good gifts; all is a gift from God. Whatever we give to Him can only seem paltry to Him “who look[s] into the depths from [His] throne upon the cherubim.” But He makes any gift we give, anything we do, great by His heavenly grace.
All our offerings are as the widow’s – but a couple of copper coins – even if we give vast wealth from our surplus. What is anything we offer in the sight of God, who owns the world and all that is in it, who sits “in the firmament of heaven”? So the size matters not. But when we give our paltry gift with a heart of faith, in answer to the love He gives us, how great our gift then becomes. For this He blesses. This He looks upon with favor. This He sees as He glances up; for it is the heart He looks upon and measures. It cannot but be that the widow gave her offering out of love, out of her deep faith in God. How could one become bereft of all riches if one did not believe in Him who surpasses all?
And is it not Daniel and the young men’s faith which God does bless with His gifts of wisdom and prudence? Because “Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine” sacrificed to his pagan gods, God first blesses him and his companions with exceptional health. Though they eat food that is poor as the widow’s offering, yet “they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table” – again, because all gifts, including that of health, are in God’s hands and not in the things themselves. And God’s gift of knowledge and understanding is a reward for their faith in Him as well; they give themselves to Him in obedience and He who holds all such light of wisdom in “the temple of [His] holy glory,” who is “exalted above all forever” – which the young men readily recognize – grants them His favors by His grace.
What gift have we to give? What paltry sum have we to offer? Let it be as the two fish the boy offered in faith and generosity to the Lord (Jn.6:9), and with it He will feed five thousand. Let it be as the two coins jangling in the widow’s pocket, and with it He will build a home for you in heaven. Let it be given in the faith of the four young men and God will bless it and reveal Himself at work in you.
O LORD, you provide, you take care…
let us not be afraid
but give ourselves entirely to your service.
YHWH, praiseworthy and exalted are you, glorious above all for all ages. And those who trust in you are truly blessed; you give them wealth and health – all wisdom comes from you. And though we may have but two copper coins, if we offer them to you, you will provide all we need in this world, and bring us to the riches of Heaven.
O let us be raised up with you, dear God! Let us join you on high where you dwell in glory. To your Temple let us come and before your throne let us bow. If so humbly we worship you, you shall sit us beside you.
Let us be in your service this day, our hearts set on doing your will alone, and we shall be blessed even before kings, even before the Son of Man. O LORD, help us to give all we have to you.
Sat, 23 November 2019
(2Sm.5:1-3; Ps.122:1-5; Col.1:12-20; Lk.23:35-43)
“This is the King of the Jews.”
On earth, our King rules from a cross; in Paradise, upon a glorious throne. O Lord Jesus, “here we are, your bone and your flesh.” May we die with you that we might reign with you in your holy kingdom.
“All the tribes of Israel came to David” and anointed him king of Israel. He had been called by the Lord as shepherd and commander of Israel, and now he would finally receive his kingship. And he would make Jerusalem the city of the king, and make it holy when he brought the ark of the covenant within its walls. And so, here on earth David reigned, as God’s anointed. And so Jerusalem becomes the place of worship, within whose gates all rejoice to set foot. And there “are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David.”
And so Jesus is called the Son of David, for He inherits this earthly kingdom blessed by God, anointed anew to reign from Jerusalem. But, of course, His kingdom is more than that of the flesh, for it is His own flesh that makes it holy – He is the Temple not made by human hands, through whom all things blessed of the earth and of heaven came to find their being: “In Him were created all things in heaven and on earth.” He indeed is the beginning of all things and the fullness, or the end, of all things; nothing, and in particular the Church, exists apart from Him.
And to what heavenly rule are we all thus called by His “making peace by the blood of His cross.” By His sacrifice we shall indeed be saved; He will remember us when He comes into His Kingdom. And there shall be true rejoicing, for there the cross shall be borne no more. Having consumed all our sins and the darkness and death of this life, it shall be transformed into the throne of glory.
Even now the Lord calls to us from the cross; even now His suffering beckons us. Even now we must turn to Him, our King, in our sin and let Him take our corrupted flesh and bone upon Himself to find the blessed reconciliation of our souls in the hand of God. As His forgiveness pours upon us in His blood, we come to the fullness of His heavenly kingdom and “share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” Long live our King, who dies upon a cross.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from My Eye" (first part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, Jesus is our bone and our flesh –
may He be our King!
YHWH, your Son is King of the Jews – let us come with Him into Paradise, where He reigns forever.
By the blood of Jesus’ Cross all in Heaven and on earth are made one, are reconciled to you, O God and Father of all the redeemed. Through Him all things were made and through Him all are saved. May we all come to share the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
David ruled from the holy city of Jerusalem; all Israel came to him to make him king. He was a man after your own heart because he sought your will in all things. But it is Jesus, your Son, He who is called Son of David for His eternal reign over Israel, over all those who strive to do your will – it is He who is and has always been true King of all Creation. To Him let us call out; in Him let us make our eternal home.
Fri, 22 November 2019
(1Mac.6:1-13; Ps.9:2-4,6,16,19; Lk.20:27-40)
“The needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
Death comes, yes. Death is upon us and surrounds us in this world. But the suffering we face in this life has its reward. Jesus has brought redemption: He has been resurrected, and we with Him. And this new life is eternal.
It seemed the Israelites were doomed. Antiochus had ruthlessly destroyed Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judah. All hope seemed lost. But hope was not lost, and today we read of the return of the people to Jerusalem in strength and the defeat and death of their enemy, the king. Now Antiochus has become “sick with grief because his designs ha[ve] failed.” Now he is “overwhelmed with sorrow” as he sees the evils he has committed overtake him and finds himself dying “in bitter grief, in a foreign land.” While in Jerusalem the Israelites celebrate and sing praise to God: “My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you.”
And now such redemption is made eternal in the Person of Jesus Christ. What was but human and temporal, the fall and rise of empires and of temples, now becomes divine, now becomes everlasting in the coming of the Messiah in the flesh of God. Yet with Him there is death – but after His crucifixion it shall be no more. Yet with Him is new life – but with His resurrection it has no end. Now “those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead… become like angels and are no longer liable to death.” In His death He destroys death: He makes it bereft of all power. In His rising He draws all into the eternal presence of the Father. Now “all are alive for Him.”
Brothers and sisters, may any “floods of sorrow” which afflict us now because of our sins or by the oppression of our persecutors not overwhelm us in this day. Let our sins be nailed to the cross with Him who is our salvation, and our hope of overcoming all the scourges of the evil one be made strong in the surpassing light of His glorious rising. With David let us “declare all [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds,” and our enemies will be left speechless.
(I must note today that the city named for this evil king – Antioch – would soon become the place where the followers of Christ were called “Christians” for the first time; and that the seat of the state which would next oppress the people of God – Rome – is now the place from which the Chair of Peter reigns. How God’s redeeming Hand does work.)
O LORD, in Heaven we shall be as angels;
let us not be weighed down by the cares of this earth.
YHWH, turn back our enemies, we pray, the sins that grieve us in this dark place. Let us not in exile die, but by your grace come to new life.
O LORD, how we long for the day when we will no more be liable to death. Like the angels of Heaven let us be; in the age to come let us make our home, leaving behind the vestiges of this vain world.
For all we have done or spoken against you, let us be forgiven, O LORD. From all the evils we have committed in Jerusalem, let us be washed clean. Make your City holy this day, that to your NAME we might sing praise.
Build up the walls round about us, dear God, that we might be protected from all the attacks of the enemy. Give us arms to defend ourselves from their snares, and we shall declare your wondrous deeds. O let us rise again with your Son!
Thu, 21 November 2019
(1Mac.4:36-37,52-59; 1Chr.29:10-13; Lk.19:45-48)
“Let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”
In both our reading and gospel today, we hear of the cleansing of the temple, and we see its purpose and fulfillment.
“My house is meant for a house of prayer,” declares Jesus. A house of prayer, and a house for teaching: “He was teaching in the temple area from day to day.” It is a house of music, for by the Israelites after the Maccabean revolution it “was reconsecrated with songs, harps, lutes, and cymbals.” It is a place for humility: “All the people prostrated themselves…” and worship: “…and adored and praised Heaven.” Praise is most fitting for the house of the Lord, for His holy temple, for it is this which unites us with our God. When we sing of His greatness – “Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory. For all in heaven and on earth is yours” – we are joined to Him who is “exalted as head over all.” For in proclaiming the truth of His “power and might” over all, we ourselves are cleansed and become as temples of the Lord, holy and radiant as gold.
“The entire populace was listening to Him and hanging on His words.” To whom did the people listen but the Temple itself? What was begun by the Maccabee brothers is accomplished in Jesus. It had long been the hope and desire of the Israelites, and indeed the longing of all mankind, to have a holy place to worship God, to offer sacrifice to Him who is the greatest love of all hearts. And now He stands before them, now He speaks to them. And He effects the renewal of the temple not so much by His “ejecting the traders” who had made it “a den of thieves,” as by His presence in their midst. For the temple exists not so much in the walls adorned “with gold crowns and shields” as in the flesh of Christ; and it is this Temple we become when we follow Him, when we hear and heed the words which issue forth like a cleansing stream from these sacred lips and heart, and when we eat His body and drink His blood.
The destruction of this Temple will come. Even now the leaders of the people are “looking for a way to destroy Him.” But in three days the Temple will be rebuilt and dedicated forever in perfect purity for all who desire to enter there.
O LORD, purify our hearts
that we might rejoice in your Temple,
our prayer ever rising up to you.
YHWH, may your Temple be cleansed that we might offer true worship to you here in your Church. Let all souls be purified by your Son and by His sacrifice, that your children might sing your praise forever. From eternity to eternity you are exalted, you are the Most High – O let us freely bless your holy NAME!
O LORD, may we know the great blessing of falling prostrate before you who are God. May we find the grace of adoring you alone. May we ever be in prayer in your holy House, and so become holy ourselves in your eternal presence.
Let your sanctuary be purified; let it be dedicated to you, dear God. Let all that is sinful be cast from us by your Son that we might indeed be blessed to be as He is; listening always to His teaching and obeying His every word, let us become a House of prayer for you.
Wed, 20 November 2019
(1Mac.2:15-29; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15,23; Lk.19:41-44)
“We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”
The king of heaven shall soon come into the city of peace, humble and riding on an ass, but today He weeps as He sees Jerusalem and knows of its imminent destruction for its sins. Yet He shall ride into Jerusalem, yet He shall be dragged within its walls… and the death He proclaims upon all its children, He Himself shall know, He Himself shall undergo, that there may be means of escape for us all, for all who turn from the prince of this world and his seduction and seek to remain true to the commands of our God.
The persecution of the Jews some two hundred years before Christ’s own we continue to hear of in our reading from Maccabees: “The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.” And though many go over to the enemy, Mattathias and his sons remain faithful, remain true to the Lord. Great is their zeal in the face of the threat and in the sight of the ways of the evil one. And flee the city and its abominations Mattathias did with all the righteous, to make a home apart in the desert. For he recognizes the time of visitation and the destruction of faith upon his city and his people; he has not “completely lost” vision of “the path to peace” but remains faithful even in time of persecution.
“Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in, and press you hard from every side,” Jesus prophesies as He weeps over Jerusalem. He wishes not to see the persecution come, nor to have to die Himself. But the people do not recognize with their hearts the love He offers forth… and so what can He do but die; and so what can they know but destruction. But His sacrifice shall prove redemptive for those who turn; a place in the desert He shall prepare for those who desire to be holy, to be set apart from the wickedness of this race.
“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” and His “faithful ones” gather before Him. In their praise of His glory they fulfill their “vows to the Most High” and so the king of this world holds no power over them. In the New Jerusalem with the risen Lord they live, beyond the destruction of the old.
O LORD, you will come to visit your people;
let us flee the sin of this world or we will be destroyed.
YHWH, it is better for us to dwell in a desert apart if it means we can remain with you. Better for us to leave all our possessions behind than to be enslaved by the silver and gold and many gifts this world offers to those who abandon their faith. Let us remain steadfast with you and fight always for what is just in your sight.
Days will soon come when there will not be one stone left on another. Indeed, our enemies come to encircle us and close in upon us. But we need not fear the darkness, the powers of this dying age. For with you, O LORD, we are strong, stronger than death itself. Let us ever offer a holy sacrifice to you; forever let us praise your NAME.
Jesus weeps for the blindness of the people to His presence among us. They hear Him not as He speaks and summons them to the kingdom. Let us not be so blind and deaf, dear LORD, but obey your every word, and we shall be rescued.
Tue, 19 November 2019
(2Mac.7:1,20-31; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; Lk.19:11-28)
“He, in His mercy, will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of His Law.”
When the Lord returns “crowned as king” He will call all before Himself and judge each according to the profit he has made with his life. If we are like the seven brothers who suffered and died for the faith, if we have been like the good servants who invested wisely the gifts left with them by the Lord, we shall come into His reign. If we have wasted His talents or, God forbid, have persecuted, as Antiochus – who “contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews” – those who strive with the Lord to remain faithful to His call, we “will not escape the hands of God.” He will come to judge; in justice He is known.
“On waking, I shall be content in your presence,” sings David in our psalm, expressing the hope of those whose “steps have been steadfast” in the paths of God. And how this hope in the coming kingdom is embodied by the seven brothers with their mother “who were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king” – how well they presage the suffering and death of Jesus, and the sword which pierces His mother’s heart. The mother’s words are particularly beautiful and wise as she witnesses to her sons that she was not the author of their lives: “It was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed,” thus stirring them to faith in “the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning” and holds the life of all in His hands. Hear her words of exhortation to faith spoken to her youngest son: “I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things.” And so she encourages him to “accept death, so that in the time of mercy [she] may receive [him] again.” Here, certainly, is our faith in essence. Here the hope we have in the Lord is lived.
The Lord has gone from us to the “faraway country” of heaven to receive His kingship and return for our souls. He has left with each of His servants gifts for the time of waiting. Today He and His heavenly kingdom are not far away for He is very present in His Church, in her priests and the sacraments, in the Word of God revealed to us, in the sky upon which we gaze to see His handiwork… in all things we know Him and for all our needs He provides. Let us not be afraid to live with Him and so to die for Him, to disregard our very lives in the employment of His talents… and the breath and life we do so cherish shall be ours forever in heaven.
O LORD, Jesus goes to the Cross, but He shall return;
He shall return and judge the souls of all.
YHWH, your Son has gone from us to a faraway land, to your side in the kingdom of Heaven. And if we wish to join Him there, we must employ well the talents He leaves us now in His stead. We must be willing to lay down our lives as He has done if we are to enter into His reign in the time of mercy.
O may your Son come to us even this day, dear LORD! May we know His presence among us in the gifts and graces He leaves us in His sacraments and in His Word. And may we work each day to increase their yield upon this earth, until He returns in glory.
Soon He shall return and we must stand strong in the face of death and torture, before the evils contrived by the hands of men. For you, O LORD, who made the heavens and the earth shall reward every man who gives witness to your love. We shall wake in your presence; breath and life will be ours in your eternal kingdom.
Mon, 18 November 2019
(2Mac.6:18-31; Ps.3:2-8; Lk.19:1-10)
“I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.”
Zacchaeus’ running up ahead and climbing a tree in order to be able to see Jesus as He passed along the way may not be a witness on the order of Eleazar, who “declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God” and went willingly to torture and death, “leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation,” but the same faith inspired both. And perhaps this wealthy man giving half of his belongings to the poor does approach the heroism of Eleazar.
The principal figures in both our reading and gospel today indeed give witness to the faith in the salvation which Jesus has come to bring to all our houses. And both reflect the strength needed to overcome the myriad of obstacles set in our paths. “O Lord, how many are my adversaries!” David cries in our psalm. “Many rise up against me!” Eleazar is threatened by the systematic persecution of his faith and his people by the pagan king and his minions, but in the face of “the instrument of torture” this noble old man tells his persecutors “to send him at once to the abode of the dead,” for he would not bring “shame and dishonor” on himself nor lead the people astray by giving in to an unlawful act. And in our gospel Zacchaeus finds himself surrounded by the murmuring crowd accusing him of being a sinner. But he stands his ground in the face of this persecution, justified or not, and proves himself worthy to be at the side of Jesus.
“The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” It is His desire to bring us to salvation. Yet if we do not seek Him, He will not find us. If we do not call to Him, He will not hear us. And if we do not stand our ground and give witness to Him when put to the test for our faith, He cannot stand with us.
Temptations must necessarily come. We cannot escape persecution. But we must not listen to those who say, “There is no salvation for him in God.” We must remember that God stands with us if we stand with Him, and that it is just such as us He has come to save.
O LORD, help us to stand strong in your NAME
in the face of persecution;
let us endure all with you.
YHWH, our adversaries surround us on every side saying there is no salvation for us in God because of our sins against you, or because they doubt your existence. Thus the darkness closes in upon us, the wickedness of this evil place. But standing with you we are saved. When we call on your NAME, when we climb the tree of life, your holy mountain, to gaze on your face, you are there to receive our souls: though we die we shall wake with you.
Why should we be afraid, LORD, though myriads of people are arrayed against us, though they threaten us with torture and death? Even if our sins should accuse us, even if rightly we should be condemned, yet your Son comes to seek us out and redeem us from condemnation to stand with Him in your kingdom. O let Him come to our house this day! and with Him let us remain faithful till the end.
Sun, 17 November 2019
(1Mac.1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63; Ps.119:53,61,88,134,150,155,158; Lk.18:35-43)
“Terrible affliction was upon Israel.”
Oh how the nation had become so blind. Oh how they had turned from their God. Some “preferred to die rather than be defiled with unclean food or to profane the covenant,” but most ate freely of the poisonous fruit of the tree of abomination, and so became as the blind man begging by the side of the road – so spiritually bereft were they.
Our reading from Maccabees tells of a terrible time of persecution upon the Israelite nation less than two hundred years before the coming of Christ, and it shows that that persecution comes from within the community itself, as “men who were breakers of the law” sought alliance with the Gentiles and their pagan worship, thinking so foolishly that this would bring them blessing and comfort. How readily “they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.” And the date is given here when “the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of holocausts,” signifying Israel’s complete turn from God and His laws to the vain worship of false gods.
Our psalm speaks repeatedly of “the snares of the wicked,” “the oppression of men,” the “malicious persecutors,” the “sinners,” the “apostates” who turn from the law and attempt to “twine” others about in their evil. This is man’s sin from the beginning – attempting to form God of his own hands, refusing to be obedient to the ways the loving Father has imparted for his salvation, for his blessing. Man gives himself over to the lusts of this world and the imagination of a proud mind, and through such exaltation of self finds himself soon lost in the confusion that such vanity can only bring. But in the meantime he persecutes the just who hold to the way of truth; for a while he fools himself by the glamour of his idols. But soon the blindness sets in, and soon the salvation of the just shall come.
If we are in affliction because of the persecution of this world of sin that surrounds and closes in, we should consider ourselves blessed; this affliction is proof of our faith, and upon it the Lord looks with favor. If we are afflicted with the blindness of the nations wrought by our wallowing in sin, we’d best cry out to the Lord as He passes us on the way to Jerusalem. He will hear us and He will stop, if we are persistent in our cries. And it is so that our faith will make us whole. Let us find our sight by the intercession of Christ and “giving God the glory” begin “to follow Him,” whatever cross may await us.
O LORD, woe to those who forsake your law! –
let them cry out to you with full voice
that they may be saved.
YHWH, how blind we have become, turning from your law, from your holy ways, to worship the false and empty gods of the nations. O may your Son turn to us and have pity this day that we might see His goodness before us and follow Him to the New Jerusalem. Let us not be counted among those who forsake your Law and profane your Temple; let us rather die than break your Covenant.
By the side of the road we sit and cry for all the afflictions our sin has brought upon us. What hope have we, O LORD, of being taken from this dark place, how could we escape the snares of the wicked round about us, if your Son did not stop and call us to Himself, if He did not come into the midst of the darkness to save us.
Glory to you, O God, and to you alone, for your promise you have not forgotten. From all evil keep us safe.
Sat, 16 November 2019
(Mal.3:19-20; Ps.98:5-9; 2Thes.3:7-12; Lk.21:5-19)
“For you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
The end comes. The end of the Church year approaches, and the end of time is always upon us. What shall it mean for us, the fact that “there will not be left a stone upon another stone”? That day comes “blazing like an oven” for all evildoers, but for the just the healing rays of the Son of God shine down – will we be burned with the proud like stubble, or made whole in the presence of God?
Yes, “He comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” He is just and so He cannot but judge with justice. How shall we prepare for His coming? What do we do as we wait? Paul gives us wise instruction, simple instruction, which should be simply heeded: “Work quietly.” It is not for us to be anxious or afraid; it is not for us to fall into disorder or become lazy… it is but for us to remain occupied with the work of God, however simple, however wonderful, that working be. We may be as St. Theresa and her little way, giving ourselves to the Lord in the simple tasks we perform day to day; or we may be as the missionaries for whom she prayed, going out to the ends of the earth, handed over to “synagogues and to prisons,” being “led before kings and governors” to give witness to the name of Christ – “and they will put some of you to death” – but to whatever we are called, always it must be the Lord and His Spirit which are at work in us, helping us to persevere to the end. Not all shall die in the cause, but all must remain faithful to His voice.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes it is the hardest thing simply to go on day to day. Regardless of our situation, we can become distracted and, failing to find the wisdom of Christ, seek to “prepare [our] defense beforehand,” to put the words of the Lord into our own mouths – to decide for ourselves what the Lord would have us do. It is the simplest thing to accept His will, to bask in the rays of His glory… and yet so anxious do we become in our waiting that we cannot hear His still, small voice speaking to our hearts. We must persevere. We must go on. We must listen. He is coming, and if we fear His holy Name, we shall have nothing else to fear: we shall be made whole.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The End of the World Courses through a Day" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us do your work now on this plane
that we might rejoice in your coming Day.
YHWH, help us to persevere until the Day of your Son’s return; that Day is at hand, we know – let us be ready for its purging fire.
And as we stand yet on this earth, let us be ever willing to do your work, to give witness to you and to your Son even with our own lives. Our lives are nothing apart from His sacrifice, and so, O LORD, let us lay them down freely in any way you call.
Give us words to speak to those who accuse us unjustly; put your testimony in our hearts and in our mouths. Your Spirit be with us to guide us in all things, that in all things we might act with wisdom. We shall not fear the destruction of this world, dear LORD, if Jesus remains always at our side.
Come now with your justice, O God, and let us forever praise your NAME. Your holy will be done even this day.
Fri, 15 November 2019
(Ws.18:14-16,19:6-9; Ps.105:2-3,5,36-37,42-43; Lk.18:1-8)
“He led forth His people with joy;
with shouts of joy, His chosen ones.”
“They beheld stupendous wonders.” Before their eyes, “out of what had been water, dry land was seen emerging.” And so, sheltered by the mighty hand of the Lord, they crossed over, from the land of bondage to freedom. And in their joy “they ranged about like horses, and bounded about like lambs…” praising the Lord, “their deliverer.”
This is the story of our own salvation; this is the way of our own redemption from the sin which holds us bound on this earthly plane. Our exodus, too, must come. The Lord shall return to earth. As He was faithful in leading the Israelites forth from the land of Egypt, where they had been slaves four hundred years, so He will not forget us who have been in the bonds of Satan upon this plane. Our deliverance, too, will come.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, God will “do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night.” He will not “delay long over them” but will “give them swift justice.” The vision of the Israelites at the Red Sea will be our own. Before our eyes we will see the dry land appearing. We shall rejoice at the Lord’s hand guiding our steps out of this dark land. “An unimpeded road” we shall travel, moving toward His promised land. Yes, heaven will be ours. The first-born of Satan, the flower of his evil, shall be destroyed in the stillness of the night, and truth and goodness and light will emerge victorious; and we shall be led forth, as it were, “laden with silver and gold,” rejoicing in the abundant blessings of our Lord and God.
He does not delay. He will not delay. We wait, yes, and struggle with our faith… but He is ready – He does not have to be asked twice. But as our hearts are weakened by sin, we must be encouraged, we must continue to pray, always, even in the face of darkness. Through the darkness the Lord’s light shall come shining, if we remain faithful in our cries. So, “sing to Him, sing His praise… O hearts that seek the Lord!” for He is near in all our prayers, and shall lead us forth into His blessed kingdom. Alleluia!
O LORD, your justice is swift
but who is there that calls out to you,
that desires your hand at work in his life?
YHWH, what marvels you have worked for us; for we who were overshadowed by sin, who seemed trapped by its darkness, abandoned to its clutches, have been mightily delivered from sure death and destruction to stand with you in your kingdom. And should we now have no faith in you? Should we fail to cry out to you for secure protection? Will your justice not come quickly to us, whom you so love and for whom you so desire salvation?
O LORD, let us not be so foolish as to doubt your good will toward us and your power to save us; let us not forget the wonders you have performed for us even to this day. And what greater wonders await those who hope in you! For the dry land we shall soon stand upon when your Son returns, when He has overshadowed our enemies and redeemed us from all darkness, shall be the Promised Land of Heaven.
O praise you, LORD! Your people glory in your holy NAME.
Thu, 14 November 2019
(Ws.13:1-9; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.17:26-37)
“Wherever the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.”
It is so that “the heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” It is true that “from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.” Yes, “the things seen are fair,” and speak even of the glory of our God… but they shall indeed all come to naught when He alone stands before us on the last day.
In the created world we exist. To an extent, in the created world we take refuge, discerning the hand of God at work in the things around us and coming by way of the knowledge presented to us in their beauty and wonder to that Hand which has created all. And so they can be beneficial to us. And so they can help to reveal God’s presence to us who are so blind. But both the warning of our reading from Wisdom and Christ’s own words in the gospel must be heeded: we cannot make “fire,” “wind,” or “mighty water” our gods; and we cannot be attached to our possessions. For these things of nature, as great as God has made them, and these things at our disposal, as much a blessing they may be to us for our time on earth, are passing away. Only God remains.
Brothers and sisters, we must look upon the stars of heaven, we must see the signs wrought in our midst… but we cannot be distracted by them from the God who made them. We must eat and drink, we must take husbands and wives… but we cannot get drunk or live in lust, allowing the earthly to overcome our spirits. Lot’s wife turned to see what she’d left behind; she longed to return to her possessions and the carnal life of Sodom. Unable to understand or accept the grace of the angel of God who was leading her forth to a safer and more glorious land, she was turned to salt – all of worth was taken from her; only the carcass remained.
The day shall come when all we see shall be destroyed. And so, how important it is that our hearts not be set on all we see, else we shall be destroyed with it. Though with utmost respect we treat this world and even find joy in its beauty, we must ever keep in mind that its beauty is passing and is only significant if it leads to the eternal beauty of heaven.
O LORD, we must discern the signs of the times,
for your Son will soon return
and we will have to leave all things behind.
YHWH, the heavens declare your glory to all, but do we upon earth hear the angels’ voices? Do we take their message of your beauty and wonder and power to heart, or do we lose ourselves in these things and pass away as they do? For the things in the heavens and those upon the earth, though blessed to find your voice resounding in them, soon turn to dust – only your kingdom remains. Will we stand with you on the last Day?
Soon your Son shall come and fully reveal your glory shining in our midst. Soon He will be here to carry us to Heaven. But will we be ready to travel with Him, or will our souls be dead and empty as a carcass? Will we turn back to the things of the earth and so be turned to salt, or place our faith in Him alone and so fly unto your presence? Let us not be lost in the things we see, O LORD, but raise our minds to look upon that which passes not away. Let us come to you.
Wed, 13 November 2019
(Ws.7:22-8:1; Ps.119:89-91,130,135,175; Lk.17:20-25)
“Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.”
Wisdom, who “is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars… reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.” Wisdom “penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity,” for she is “the refulgence of eternal light.” How like the Lord she is, He whose coming “day will be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other” and yet whose reign is “already in [our] midst.” How we are filled with understanding when this light which “endures forever,” which “is firm as the heavens,” shines upon our simple minds, leading us to the grace of eternal glory.
Wisdom we need, brothers and sisters. The Lord’s Word must be with us. “For there is naught God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.” Else we shall be as those who “go running about excitedly” at every report of the Lord’s being “here” or “there,” at every proclamation of the end being near. The end is here; it is now the Son of Man “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age.” The Lord has come, and so “the reign of God is already in [our] midst.” Its fulfillment we shall not discern by “careful watching,” by setting our sights on the things of the earth, but only with the “intelligent, pure, and very subtle” spirit of Wisdom. She alone teaches us of the kingdom, for she alone is “the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of His goodness.” Without her purity, our minds are dimmed. Without her surpassing light, we cannot but be blind. She alone knows, she alone leads holy souls into the truth of His presence. All words lacking her light are but vain speculation, which shall come to naught, which shall fall to the earth from which they are derived. Heaven alone is lasting.
Have we the light of Wisdom directing our thoughts and actions, brothers and sisters? Is her purity set firmly within us? Will we then stand on the day the lightning flashes, on the day the glory of the Lord is revealed? Do we carry that glory now within us? If not, let us turn to Wisdom, and she will teach us. Like a mother who cares for her children she will be. And led to the presence of the Lord we will be, where we will find our peace. Let us not fail to take her gentle yoke upon our shoulders; let the cross of Christ and the light of the coming kingdom be ever our guide.
O LORD, your Son is in our midst
most especially in His Cross,
and it is through His Cross
Wisdom shines most brightly.
YHWH, let the Spirit of Wisdom fill us, your Holy Spirit pass into us and make us as your prophets. Let us speak only your Word in all we do, moving ever with the One who is beyond all motion – intelligent, holy, and pure let us be. Without the light of Wisdom our lives shall be as nothing in your sight; let your countenance shine upon us.
Your reign is coming by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is now already in our midst. Not relegated to space or time, it is not readily perceived by the mind of man – he cannot put his finger upon it or control it in any way. All we can do is desire your presence with us, LORD, that when the lightning flashes in your eternal sky, we will stand firm with you who endure forever, and with your Son.
Give us your light, dear God, that we might be established well in your glorious kingdom.
Tue, 12 November 2019
(Ws.6:1-11; Ps.82:3-4,6-8; Lk.17:11-19)
“Stand up and go your way;
your faith has been your salvation.”
“This man was a Samaritan.” Jesus chose the lowest of the low, not only a leper, the most ostracized of all individuals, but a Samaritan, a foreigner most despised by the Israelite nation, to reveal His mercy, to reveal the universal nature of His forgiveness, and so the universal call to salvation. He demonstrates that all may have faith in Him, and that it is for us to call all to Him.
Many are given power on this earth, power which was far from the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus. And Wisdom makes clear the responsibility that comes with that authority, the manner in which that judgment placed in the hands of princes must be effected. For the Lord shall hold accountable all to whom power is given; He shall “probe [their] works and scrutinize [their] counsels.” And if they keep not His law and “walk according to the will of God,” great as the power given them shall be their punishment. “For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy,” as was the leper in our gospel today, “but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.”
I find it rather frightening to hear that “for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends,” for, brothers and sisters, we are all given a measure of power by the Lord, and so all shall be held responsible for their gifts. It can make us quake in our shoes to think that we are answerable to God, to the all-powerful Lord of the universe, for all we do. Do we “keep the holy precepts” well? Will we “have ready a response” when He stands before us, when He inquires of our actions? If we desire His words, we know that He will instruct us, but how can we who are so human and sinful be as faithful as we need to be? Our psalm warns us: “You are gods, all of you sons of the Most High” – we are all gifted greatly by our God to be as His children – “yet like men you shall die, and fall like any prince…” yet oh how human we are, how subject to the elements of sin and death.
What shall we do? Our psalm indicates what our actions should be: “Defend the lowly and the fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.” And the blessed leper in our gospel reveals the attitude we should have toward our Lord: “He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and spoke His praises.” If we think ourselves any better than he or do anything differently, we shall not hear the Lord calling us to rise and go forth – we shall not find our salvation. Let us demonstrate our faith and the grace at work within us.
O LORD, you raise the lowly who call to you,
but the wicked who turn their faces from your presence
you cut down.
YHWH, the lowly and the poor you raise up, so let us fall on our face before you. Like the leper let us know and remember that only by your Son are we made whole; only by you do we have life at all. Whatever power we may have in this world comes only from you, and we shall be answerable for it.
You scrutinize all matters, LORD, for your eye sees all things. The haughty soul does not escape your glance but shall be brought to judgment for the evil in his heart and at his hands. If we desire to find blessing from you, to come into your presence in the kingdom, how humble we must be and faithful in your service.
We are all made princes by your grace upon us. Though we come from dust you breathe the breath of life into us and so form us in your image. And in your image we must remain, to it we must return, O LORD. Without your wisdom to lead us, how terribly we shall be judged. Save us from such a deadly fate, and we shall sing your praise.
Mon, 11 November 2019
(Ws.2:23-3:9; Ps.34:2-3,16-19; Lk.17:7-10)
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.”
What does the Lord mean when He instructs us in our gospel to say, “We are useless servants,” than that which David says in our psalm, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves,” and that which the Book of Wisdom states in our first reading: “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself”? For though we who serve Christ seem to be dead in the judgment of this world, and the laying down of our lives in service of Christ – who died upon the cross quite freely – seems to be nothing but “utter destruction,” yet we know that it is precisely this death in Christ which brings life… and in His hands we shall be blessed.
“The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.” Yet “when the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress He rescues them.” Yes, “those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with Him in love: because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with His elect.” And “they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.” For they have given their service to the One who rules the universe, and so in His service they shall remain – death shall have no power over them. If “God formed man to be imperishable” and made him “the image of His own nature,” what shall touch those who serve Him, who treasure that image of God upon them? How shall they die?
“We have done no more than our duty.” This is the bottom line of our time on earth. And the accomplishment of our duty, the fulfillment of the Lord’s Word at work in our hearts, is all that is needed to bring us to eternal life. And though it is not His obligation, though certainly no reward is due us who have but carried out the orders of our superior, the Lord will say to us in His grace on that day, “Come and sit down at table.” And we shall sup with Him eternally, His gracious hand upon us for good.
Brothers and sisters, forget not your call to serve Him, to lay down your lives before Him, and He shall not neglect to hear you now, and to give you life eternal. Keep your “hope full of immortality” even “as gold in the furnace” your mettle is proven this day, and the day of the Lord shall be yours, when all torment shall have fled away.
O LORD, we are indeed useless servants,
but you greatly bless those who serve you.
YHWH, death is upon us this day, you know. But we who are joined to the Cross of your Son are not touched by it: from death you save your faithful servants. Whatever power the devil has to threaten us with our sins and the death that comes from them has been destroyed by the sacrifice of Jesus. And so, we who humble ourselves with Him will be blessed in your kingdom.
When we cry out to you, dear LORD, you are quick to save us; near indeed you are to the brokenhearted. Though our spirits be crushed by the travails of this life, you raise them to your presence. And so, what can we do but glory in your NAME? What can we do but look forward to that day when we shall sit at your table?
O LORD, let us be purified of all dross by the affliction we suffer in union with your only Son. Remade in His image, into your peace let us come, dwelling in immortality.
Sun, 10 November 2019
(Wis.1:1-7; Ps.139:1-10,24; Lk.17:1-6)
“Where can I hide from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?”
Yes, “wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemous of his guilty lips.” For the spirit of the Lord is everywhere and hears everything, listening closely to a man’s inmost thoughts. “For the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says.” And so it is that David sings, “If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there, too.” How could we escape His encircling Hand and His omnipresent justice if, as David says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all”? And so, in heaven He is present to raise us to glory; but in hell, His presence condemns our sin.
We cannot sin, brothers and sisters. If we do, we shall not escape His hand. It cannot but be that the Lord condemns all evil, for “into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not,” and what hope have we of life if the spirit of wisdom guides us not? Indeed, we must “seek Him in integrity of heart.” Yes, justice must be our love, and wisdom our treasure. This alone will bring us unto heaven. If our counsels are perverse and we cause sin to occur, leading others astray by our unjust words and actions, the Lord makes quite clear our fate in our gospel today: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” And there is a “little one” in ourselves, whom only the Lord – who probes our heart and mind – knows, and whom we condemn to destruction by our sin.
Rather, we must have faith. We must forgive others and have an abiding faith in Him, Jesus tells us. This faith will manifest itself in the great works done in His name, and in our following Him simply day to day. With such faith we cannot be shaken. Holding such faith, the light shining upon our souls by Him who sees all will purify us for the coming of His kingdom.
What can we say, brothers and sisters? The Lord hears us. Where can we go? He is with us. Either for evil because of our turning away, or for our good by our turning to Him, the Lord is ever present. It must be our desire to come to Him, in wisdom and in justice, in forgiveness and in faith… and hell we shall avoid as gratefully into His glory we fly, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O LORD, you see us and the sin we commit,
and so we must turn to you for forgiveness.
YHWH, your Spirit fills the world; wherever we may go, you are present. We cannot escape your light, and should we try, we would but find ourselves in hell. You hear every word we speak: our inmost selves are exposed to your eye. We must but believe in your love, and Wisdom will be with us as guide.
But how difficult we make the path to faith. How ready we are to listen to senseless and perverse counsels and so disbelieve you. As easily as Eve we fall, O LORD. May we know your just rebuke of our sins that we might find repentance and taste your forgiveness upon our souls.
O let us not fight against you, dear God! but work always and only for the salvation of all, for the recognition of your eternal glory present in our midst by the Spirit come through your only Son. And so with you let us dwell.
Sat, 9 November 2019
(2Mac.7:1-2,9-14; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; 2Thes.2:16-3:5; Lk.20:27-38)
“On waking I shall be content in your presence.”
Our hope is in the resurrection, brothers and sisters. It is this which gives us strength, and it is our endurance which brings us to His presence.
Brothers and sisters, indeed, as Paul wishes us, we have “everlasting encouragement and good hope” through the grace of our Lord. He strengthens our hearts “in every good deed and word” and guards us “from the evil one.” Thus our hearts should be directed “to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
We have as our example today these seven brothers spoken of in the Second Book of Maccabees, who showed the endurance of Christ and their faith in the resurrection to life despite the severity of their torture at the hands of the wicked of this world – and all this before the coming of Christ into the world and the great graces He has since imparted to His Church. If they could die so for the law alone, to what deeds should we not be able to attain? If in the presence of their torturers they could state with such confidence, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever,” what should we not be able to declare in the name of Him who has now been raised from the dead and ascended to glory? If they were so well able to regard their suffering “as nothing,” how much easier should be our own sacrifice, we who stand “in the shadow” of His cross and have His wounds in which to take refuge? Indeed, such greater reason have we to hold to “the hope God gives of being raised up by Him.”
“That the dead will rise” there should be no doubt in our hearts. The fact that “to Him all are alive” should be firmly fixed as a peg in the deepest recesses of our souls. Certainly, this is who we are, children of the resurrection, with the calling to come to Christ, He who has been raised to life. I pray we shall all be “deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.” Children of God, may we be like angels in His presence when we rise. May our minds not be darkened by the night upon this earth, but let our hope be fixed on the coming morning and our faith strengthen us to endure until we stand with Him on that new day.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Too Good for This World" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us the courage to believe
we shall rise with your Son.
YHWH, keep us steadfast in your paths that soon we might come to your heavenly kingdom; let us be ready to die for you, that we might be raised to glory.
If the seven brothers spoken of in Maccabees could so readily give their lives, could so courageously face the cruel torture imposed upon them by the devil, what faith should we not have, dear LORD, we who have your only Son now at our side and your Holy Spirit to open our eyes? Do we not even now look upon your face; are the glimpses we gain today not so much greater than then?
How strong we should be in walking your way, LORD, we to whom the resurrection has been spoken of so clearly. We whom your Son has told in no uncertain terms that the just shall rise from the dead and be like the angels of Heaven should have no doubt remaining in our hearts and no fear of proclaiming Jesus as God. O help us to endure with joy even to the Day of His coming!
Fri, 8 November 2019
(Ez.47:1-2,8-9,12; Ps.46:1-3,5-6,8-9; 1Cor.3:9c-11,16-17; Jn.2:13-22)
“There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.”
On this the feast set aside to commemorate the cathedral of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, himself the founding stone upon which Christ builds His Church, we hear much of temples. In our first reading Ezekial sees in his vision, “water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple,” water which brings life to the great sea and the fruit that grows upon its banks; the water that gladdens the holy dwelling of the Most High is spoken of in our psalm; Paul tells us we are “the temple of God,” “God’s building”; and zeal for the Father’s house consumes the Lord, and so He purges it with whip in hand in our gospel today. But perhaps the most revelatory statement is, “He was speaking of the temple of His body,” also from our gospel, and noted as explanation of Jesus’ challenge to the Jews to destroy the temple and He would rebuild it in three days. This essential truth of the nature of the temple is substantiated by Paul’s teaching of the care needed by those who build within the Church: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.” Though he then goes on to say that we are the temple of God, wrought in all holiness, and though this is an equal truth, yet neither this truth, nor that which holds Peter as the founding “rock” of this Temple in which we dwell, have any basis without the essential understanding that Jesus is at the very heart of all our worship, of the Church we are. The Lord has indeed wrought “astounding things… on earth.” He has made us as those trees along the banks of His river of life, bearing His fruit each month for the benefit of the world. He has made us His holy dwelling place and placed His Spirit upon us for the building up of His kingdom… But all of this has its source in the water of life itself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate our Church this day and the glorious blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us as His temple, as His children, let us not forget our Savior who has been the cause of and continues to be the cause of our joy. Let us be washed in the water from His side and be built up in His Body and His Blood. May we have His same zeal for the Father’s House.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, purify this temple, destroyed by sin;
let us truly be your House, dear God.
YHWH, you are with us in the midst of your Church, your Son the very foundation of this Temple. And He is the Temple itself, we His very Body; and so, how holy we should be. Indeed, we should be as holy as you, our Most High God, as perfect as your only Son.
It is Jesus’ blood and the water flowing from His side that washes us clean and nourishes the growth of His holy Church. The waters of this River gladden the hearts of all who dwell in your House, O LORD. Upon the banks of this River let us ever remain, bearing fruit each month, each day, each hour, in your holy NAME.
Beneath the Cross let us make our home, O holy LORD and God. Here alone in the shadow of Jesus’ arms will we be made whole, will our temple be cleansed and we become your house of prayer. May the zeal of the Christ chastise our hearts and prepare them for your kingdom. May we be raised with Him on His Day and remain in your presence forever.
Thu, 7 November 2019
(Rm.15:14-21; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.16:1-8)
“The worldly take more initiative than the otherworldly
when it comes to dealing with their own kind.”
What is the Lord teaching His disciples? What does He wish to tell them of their call? We need only look at the Apostle Paul, for here is a man, a child of God, who has taken the initiative the Lord would see wrought in us all.
Our first reading indeed speaks clearly of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Not only has he covered a vast measure of the globe (particularly for that time), but his intense initiative is seen most acutely in his never going “to preach in places where Christ’s name was already known”; rather, “they who received no word of Him” became Paul’s audience. A greater example of taking initiative in the Spirit of Christ to bring His light to the world perhaps will never be known.
But it is required of all of us. We are not free to revel in complacency because Paul has been so industrious. It is still true that the Lord must make His salvation known “in the sight of the nations,” and it is still so that we Christians of the Church militant have the responsibility to see that the Lord’s work is accomplished. Each of us is called to take a measure of initiative, is gifted by God with the responsibility of bringing a portion of His kingdom to light – in our own way, in our own time… but invariably the call is there and must be answered. All must fulfill their role in salvation history before it can be truly and completely proclaimed: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.”
The devious employee’s heart was set thoroughly on the business at his hands, and he used his business wisdom, his worldly savvy, to save his skin. Where is our spiritual savvy? Where is the employment of our spiritual wisdom and insight to the salvation of others’ souls, and our own? “I can take glory in Christ Jesus for the work I have done for God,” Paul says quite freely. Are we able to say the same? Let us work industriously and with initiative to bring the spiritual kingdom to fulfillment. By God’s grace, let the Spirit come.
O LORD, let us do all we can to bring your Word
to the world.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of your Son, but we must carry that truth to the ends of the world, even as the Apostle Paul.
We cannot sit on our hands, dear LORD; we must not dissipate your grace. Rather, let us readily preach your Gospel in all we think, do, and say. Then we will be pleasing in your sight, and all souls will be drawn into your presence.
O LORD, to your children you have granted complete knowledge of your ways and made them able to serve your kingdom. In the power of your Spirit let us go forth to see that all peoples are consecrated to you.
Let all souls sing a new song to your NAME; let all praise your goodness to us, LORD. From your work let us never turn away until we stand with you on your holy Day.
Wed, 6 November 2019
(Rm.14:7-12; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Lk.15:1-10)
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Since “every one of us will have to give an account of himself before God,” who are we to “sit in judgment” or “look down on” a brother? Why are our eyes set upon others’ sins instead of the Lord’s glory? Why do we fall into this pit of condemnation?
Yes, Jesus welcomes sinners. For this has He come. How blessed are we that He makes such “a diligent search” to retrieve our souls from the grave of sin; how blessed are we when He finds us and puts us “on His shoulders in jubilation.” In this forgiveness should we glory. In this grace we should praise the Lord, and seek to help others come to such blessing. But do we blind ourselves to the grace at work in our souls by setting our sights on the sins of others rather than the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ? Are we as judgmental as the Pharisees and as those Paul warns today against condemnation of others?
Brothers and sisters, we should rather be with David in his psalm and seek “to dwell in the house of the Lord” forever, and set our “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple”; we must not let our sights fall from heaven to earth and so lose ourselves in the judgment of others’ sin. This is the great danger. This is the devil’s temptation: “Look at him,” he says, “see how evil he is.” If he cannot get us to believe it about ourselves and so lose hope of redemption for our souls, he attempts to distract us with the sins of others, and so achieve the same ends. We must realize that “both in life and death we are the Lord’s,” that He loves us and desires our salvation, and that He loves and desires the salvation of all our neighbors. And so we must come to Him, take refuge in Him and in His love and forgiveness, and then we will “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” and not die a miserable death.
Brothers and sisters, let each of us be that “repentant sinner” over whom the angels of God rejoice. The Lord welcomes us though we are sinners. Let us not forget His grace. And let us welcome others.
O LORD, let me be that one repentant sinner
you find and place upon your shoulders –
come to me even this day.
YHWH, it is your great joy to see the repentance of the sinner, and so your Son has come among us to invite us to such grace. And if we are your friends, will we not rejoice with you? If all of Heaven rejoices at the conversion of the poor lost sinner, we show ourselves not to be of you, not to be of Heaven, if instead we look down upon our brother. O save us from such a miserable fate!
We all must bend the knee before your Son; we all shall have to appear before your judgment seat and give an account of our lives. And is any of us without sin, except your Son’s dear Mother? Then we must know that to dwell in your House, to contemplate your face, we all require your blessed forgiveness, LORD, that without it we will be left standing outside your gates. And so, let us praise you for your goodness to us, and to others. Let all souls be found rejoicing in your kingdom.
Tue, 5 November 2019
(Rm.13:8-10; Ps.112:1-2,4-5,9; Lk.14:25-33)
“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus tells us, “None of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions,” turning our backs even on father and mother, even on our very selves. Our psalm states of the happy man, “Lavishly he gives to the poor; his generosity shall endure forever.” And Paul makes clear that we “owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
What is this love? Where is this generous spirit? How do we renounce all our possessions? In the cross of Christ we find our call. The cross of Christ means giving all, means laying down our lives for the Lord and our neighbor – the cross of Christ is love itself at work in this world in the death of self and the finding of the grace and the love of God in heaven.
Jesus wishes that you be sure about this. He desires that you understand what is required of you – your very life, your absolute love. Nothing short of total sacrifice will do; we must be entirely whole, utterly holy, to enter His gates, to follow Him into glory. This is greater and more significant than any war, than any project conceived by the mind of man, for it is our eternal soul that is at stake, whose weight cannot compare to even all the world. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We all have a cross graciously placed upon our shoulders by our loving Lord to make us one with Him in His redemptive suffering and death, to make us one with Him in such utter love. How will we find heaven if we do not love? How do we come to that place which is only of love if we do not give ourselves to love completely?
“How can I do this?” you say. “The Lord asks too much.” You must remember that it is only love He asks of you, and that it is His cross you carry – He who is only of love – and so He carries your cross with you, making it ever so sweet and light. Do you think the saints feared to die in the name of Christ? Do you think they shrank back even in the face of torture? None of this has any significance to the soul who is set on Christ; and without Christ a hangnail can seem overwhelming.
Love, brothers and sisters. It is simple as that. Love. Not this world, but His heart, His sacrifice, His cross. And you will see all brought to life before you; and you will find joy in your soul.
O LORD, what a beautiful invitation to love
is Jesus’ call to carry our cross with Him!
for He is only love,
and what can we find but love if we follow Him –
and who will we then not truly love?
YHWH, teach us of your way of love, embodied so perfectly in your Son, that we might give ourselves as generously as He to all those we find in need. Help us to give up all things, to renounce our possessions, to turn our backs even on friends and family that we might truly love them and so teach them of your surpassing love.
O how sweet is the Cross your Son would impart to all His followers! What light it gives to the world. If with willing heart we lend to others, expecting nothing in return, how blessed are we to thus share in your love! Love is all that matters; it is the fulfillment of your Law, O LORD. And we find it in the Cross.
Jesus gives so lavishly to us poor souls, we who are so poor in spirit. Nothing have we to offer in return, dear God, but the sacrifice of our lives. May this poor offering be acceptable to you.
Mon, 4 November 2019
(Rm.12:5-16; Ps.131:1-3; Lk.14:15-24)
“Come along, everything is ready now.”
Dinner is being served now in the kingdom of God. But are we prepared to sit down at table? Or do we turn our hearts to other things?
Jesus sets our place now in the kingdom of heaven. He has come. He has died. He has risen and sends now the Holy Spirit to invite us into His presence. And His presence is ever with us; He is ever knocking at the door of our hearts – His Spirit is always with us. But, again, do we hear His call, do we heed His call? Do we care to come into His presence and sup with Him, and receive His gracious gifts at His precious table, at His holy altar… or do we cling to what is evil, what is worldly?
How do we come to His kingdom? How do we find ourselves in His presence? Paul instructs us: we must simply do His will. Doing His will upon the face of this earth brings us to the kingdom of heaven. The teaching should be evident to all Christians: “One who is a teacher should use his gift for teaching… He who gives alms should do so generously… Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer…” Do all things as is meet for those things. It is not complex. There needs no genius to figure it out, or a scholastic degree to understand it. One need not travel miles to discover it. It is truth. It is Jesus. It is to suffer and die for Him as called by the Lord. “Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good.” What more can be said? Find peace in the arms of the Lord. Say with our psalmist, “I have still and quieted my soul… like a weaned child upon its mother’s lap.” We must do as he proclaims: “I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me.” We must not complicate God’s simple love for us and our call simply to love Him with all He gives us. We must, rather, heed His voice, and come into His presence when He calls.
The table is set. His Word is speaking to us. In silence we will hear Him; in quiet we will find His voice. In the vain activity of this world we become deaf. Only by hearing and doing His Word and will, will we come to sit at His table and partake of His heavenly banquet – only if this is the true desire of our souls. Even now we taste Him in the Blessed Sacrament; even today we hear His Word proclaimed. Are we prepared to meet Him? Do we seek to do His holy will?
O LORD, all are invited your House –
let us find our place in the Body of Christ
and serve Him well.
YHWH, help us to do your will in all things, simply and purely, as your sons. What you give to us let us share with others, answering you readily when you call.
What need we do, dear God, but share the gifts you give us with others? What do you expect of us but to use well what you place in our hands? If we can teach, let us teach; if serve, let us serve. Whatever we have let us be generous in offering at the service of our brothers. Let us indeed love freely as you.
Then we will be ready to answer your Son’s call to the kingdom – we will already be answering it in our very actions. We will not be distracted from coming to you, LORD, if our only desire is to do your will in all things, if we are serving you with all our lives. Then your Bread will already be before us, and we shall come into your presence this day. O let your peace reign in our hearts!
Sun, 3 November 2019
(Rm.11:29-36; Ps.69:14,30-31,33-34,36-37; Lk.14:12-14)
“God has imprisoned all in disobedience
that He might have mercy on all.”
I begin to see “how deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” For though I am far from knowing “the mind of the Lord,” yet He does offer me a certain insight this early morning about Him whom Paul says, “From Him and through Him and for Him all things are.”
It is in the complementarity of the readings the insight comes, particularly viewing the gospel in light of the first reading. Jesus instructs the chief of the Pharisees that when giving a banquet he should “invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind” and to be “pleased that they cannot repay” him for his generosity, assuring him he “will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” Now, the Lord does not instruct us to be anything more or less than He and the Father are. So this instruction reflects God’s own great desire and joy in giving to those who are not able to repay Him: it serves as a reminder that God is love, that He thrives, as it were, on mercy, on compassion.
Paul, in the first reading, states to the Romans, “God wished to show you mercy,” and that for this reason the Jews “have become disobedient,” as well as to fulfill God’s longing that “they too may receive mercy” upon returning to Him who set them apart for Himself. Again we see the greatness of God’s love, we glimpse His burning desire to show compassion to all creatures. Now, to the mind lacking wisdom (and love), it might seem as if God is somehow playing with us, causing our falling that He might lift us up again. But it is necessary to remember that God did not desire us to sin, that this was not His intention… and indeed that He did not need us to sin to show us His mercy and love. But our disobedience having come, God in His love is not conquered. This temporary and empty victory by the devil does not tie His hands. Rather, the Lord takes this opportunity to show in an even greater way the very mercy and love which are His essence – shown to us so clearly in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to forgive men’s sins – to show, really, His greatness, which has its source in this love.
And David’s psalm speaks in the same line: “The Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” In our affliction and pain we cry out and He comes with His “saving help”; He is pleased to “rebuild the cities of Judah,” to return us to His side. It is not sin He desires, but the recognition of our dependence on Him for all things, that He might freely show us His love. For this love at His heart’s core and which overcomes all – which is the essence of God and His creation – let us praise Him, brothers and sisters. “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
O LORD, who can repay you
for your mercy toward us,
for your love is without measure?
YHWH, how great is your mercy, and how greatly you desire us to share in that mercy. And so we have become imprisoned in disobedience, that your love you might freely bestow upon us. And so you call us to give freely to others, that your blessing of mercy we might know even in our own souls.
O LORD, how can we poor creatures share so intimately in your merciful love? How can we who have hardened our hearts so much against you be blessed with the grace of forgiveness and come to the fountain of love you are? We deserve it not. We merit only condemnation. And yet, it is your desire to show us such love, and to have us show it to others.
How can we thank you, LORD, we poor beggars, we blind souls…? How can we repay you for giving us, and then giving us back, our very lives? In your generosity invite us to your table and by your grace let us feast with you.
Sat, 2 November 2019
(Wis.11:22-12:2; Ps.145:1-2,8-11,13-14; 2Thes.1:11-2:2; Lk.19:1-10)
“The Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.”
How beautifully the readings speak today of our “Lord and lover of souls” whose “imperishable spirit is in all things” and who is “good to all and compassionate to all His works.” It is indeed “in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” that we be glorified in Him and He in us, and so we praise Him: “Every day I will bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever.”
The Lord “love[s] all things that are”; all is made by Him, so how could He but love all. Though to Him “the whole universe is as… a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth,” He loves it all with a most personal affection, shown in the grace-filled coming of His Son among us. And why has this Son come but to forgive? Why has He walked the earth but to call men back to their place in the loving heart of the Father? Why has He come but to show the Father’s loving mercy?
And appropriate is Paul’s warning “not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly” in fear of the Lord’s imminent return in judgment. Here is remedy against all the false prophets predicting the sudden end of this universe God has created, as if they could move His hand, as if they could know His mind. Whence does this come but the same grumbling of the people when Jesus moved to go in to sup with Zacchaeus, the famous sinner? Whence does this come but a failure to understand the Lord’s wisdom and love and manner of working in the world, failing to see that what the Lord does is “rebuke sinners little by little, warn[ing] them and remind[ing] them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in [Him]”?
It is evident that the majority in the crowd would have preferred, in fact, rejoiced in seeing, Zacchaeus’ utter destruction. They expected the Lord’s punishment on this sinner, and desired it to come immediately. Why? Again, they knew not God’s love or the Lord’s purpose. Why? Even more to the point: they were sinners themselves who failed to recognize their sin and realize their own need for mercy – and so had neither the Lord’s patience, nor His love.
How well that loving forgiveness is illustrated in our gospel; how like the parable of the Prodigal Son. As the son returns to the father, Zacchaeus goes ahead and climbs the tree. As the father sees the son from far off and goes to him, so Jesus spies Zacchaeus in the tree and calls to him. As the father’s generous love sparks the son’s complete repentance, so Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus brings salvation to his house, shown in his generous penance. I pray we all seek the Lord who seeks for us and act as Zacchaeus, who “came down quickly and received Him with joy,” as the Lord freely offers His love and forgiveness to our souls. Praise Him for His kindness!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Save the Children" (first half) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our stature before you
has been diminished by sin,
but your Son comes to raise us to Heaven.
YHWH, how compassionate you are toward all your creatures, desiring the repentance of all in whom your imperishable Spirit dwells that they might not die but turn to you and live. And so you have sent your Son to seek and save the lost. And so we should praise you for your greatness.
You have indeed made all things, and man in your image and likeness. And so you cannot but look upon us with pity as we distort your blessed image by sin; and so, little by little you rebuke us, LORD, reminding us of our sin that we might abandon our wickedness and believe in you.
You are our God and King, faithful and holy in all your works, but we are weak and prone to stray from your grace. So in your kindness you bow down to lift us up, we who are falling, that we might look upon your face, that in glory we might dwell with your only Son… that your salvation might come even to the house of the worst sinner.