Fri, 31 January 2020
(2Sm.12:1-7,10-17; Ps.51:12-17; Mk.4:35-41)
“I have sinned against the Lord.”
David is the man who “took the poor man’s ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor.” To feed his lust he has feasted on another man’s wife. And he sees the injustice of this; he recognizes his guilt when his sin is exposed. But why has he done it? “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this merits death!” And so David, too, has need of the true King and His cross to redeem him.
What does the Lord say to David as he “lie[s] on the ground clothed in sackcloth,” praying for the dying child he has conceived by his sin? We know what he says to God, for we have Psalm 51 to eternally express the misery of this sinner, and all sinners. We know he cries out: “Free me from my blood guilt, O God, my saving God.” But how does God respond? Is He with him? We know the Lord forgives David – Nathan tells him so – but yet “the sword shall never depart from [his] house,” and he shall have his sin later exposed in broad daylight by his own son, Absalom, who lies with David’s wives in the public eye. Much woe remains with David long after his fall, and really throughout the history of Judah and Israel. He is assured: “You shall not die,” but though his house remain and is fulfilled in the coming of Christ, what pain must be with the king in this time.
If he had called upon the Lord, as He rebukes the wind and the sea in our gospel: “Quiet! Be still!” so would God have calmed his lust upon a word from his mouth. But he “utterly spurned the Lord.” How is it such a humble and obedient king could do such a thing? How is it the disciples are so “lacking in faith” at the specter of the violence of the sea? Why do they become so “terrified”?
Would not we all, brothers and sisters? Have we not all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Do we not all become awed by Him whom “the wind and the sea obey”? Yet we must come to Him. Yet we must beg His pardon. Yet we must seek the strength of His Spirit, of His Word within us. Yet we must fall to our knees before our priest and cry out to our God – “A clean heart create for me, O Lord, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Thus we all have need of cleansing this side of heaven; we have all brought forth children unto death.
O LORD, let us be obedient
as the wind and the sea to your command,
or we shall be overwhelmed by the waves of this world.
YHWH, why should we be so terrified at the wind and the waves? Why should we fear the prospect of death? Do you not hold both the sea and death in your hands, and are you not faithful in saving us when we call to you? Why are we then so lacking in faith?
O LORD, we are not as you. We are weak and sinful men. How can we be strong when we look out and see the depth of our sin? How can it not overwhelm us? You are all good and we have sinned against you. You are only of love, and we are but selfish. How can we stand before you in our misery?
Help us to remember how gracious you are, dear God. Help us to maintain your Spirit within us. You desire our salvation, you desire our good; help us to desire it ourselves, and to act upon that desire.
O LORD, let us not go astray. Cleanse our hearts and our hands from all our guilt and let us stand strong with you. Forgive us our sin and all the effects of our sin.
Thu, 30 January 2020
O teacher and father
of the children in your care,
in whose hands
they were not abandoned
but held in patience
by Christ’s love –
teach us, too,
to have that same patience,
to have that same love
for those the Lord places
in our care,
that anger shall be banished
from our hearts and our minds,
that the wisdom of Christ’s sacrifice
you taught and lived
we too might embody,
and so serve
in raising the kingdom of Heaven
among the children of this earth.
And pray that we, too,
may know the Lord’s gentle word and touch
upon our own souls
and so grow into His likeness.
Thu, 30 January 2020
(2Sm.11:1-10,13-17; Ps.51:3-7,10-11; Mk.4:26-34)
“The seed sprouts and grows without his knowing how it happens.”
Jesus in our gospel tells us of the kingdom of God and of its gradual growth without our knowing. Seed is scattered, the Word is sown in our souls, and as we “[go] to bed and [get] up day after day,” remaining in the presence of the Lord, good fruits little by little reveal themselves in our lives – till finally at the time of judgment we are gathered into the heavenly reign. Though small and humble seed, once we are sown in the Lord’s grace, we “become the largest of shrubs, with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.” And so this man made of dust may find life eternal in Jesus.
In our first reading there is another kind of gradual growth evident: the sin of David. It is the time of year “when kings go out on campaign” with their armies, but David remains at home – and so in this sin of sloth is sown that which will grow into adultery and murder. For one evening as the king “[rises] from his siesta and stroll[s] about on the roof of the palace,” he sees the beautiful Bathsheba bathing, and lets his look linger upon her. Lust having taken hold of him, he takes her to his bed and has relations with her, despite her being another man’s wife. In a vain attempt to cover his sin, he recalls the husband from battle that he might go in to his wife and believe the child David has conceived is his own. But the man is more faithful to the troops in battle than David is to his position as king, and remains apart from his home. Finally, David resorts to arranging for Uriah’s death in battle.
O how sin has grown in the great king! From a small seed tremendous guilt is born. And now, what can the prince of the people do but seek the mercy of the Lord. In his famous psalm of repentance David begs God, “Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt.” He calls out, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and of my sin cleanse me.” Recognizing his plight as a member of the fallen human race: “In guilt I was born, and in sin my mother conceived me,” the king shows genuine humility, and so finds the forgiveness of God – but now the sword shall be upon his house. Though there shall be peace in the time of the son he will later conceive with the wife of Uriah, it shall not remain. Only in Christ will God’s blessing truly return again.
Brothers and sisters, from small seeds indeed great trees come. We must be ever diligent about the seed we sow, remaining always in the light of the Lord and nourished by the Spirit. When “the time is ripe for harvest,” all we have done shall be exposed; until then, let us trust in His presence alone.
O LORD, let us grow into your kingdom,
not into sin.
YHWH, let your kingdom grow among us and within us. Let not our sin grow in its place, that we shall not come unto death but new life in you.
We are sinful men, O LORD. All of us fall short of your glory; all of us have done evil in your sight. But you are good and forgiving and there is no sin from which you cannot cleanse us. David your servant has been guilty of adultery and murder. He has acted out of sloth and lust and selfish pride, yet when he calls out to you, you look upon him with pity. When he acknowledges his sin before you, you forgive. What good is beyond your power to do?
And in the place of our sin you plant the seed of your kingdom, LORD. Where once was but parched and fallow land, you bring fruitful growth. Though this seem impossible in our sight, you accomplish it in your will. Though we cannot see, though we do not know how, you work to raise us to your glory. Turn your face from our sins and let us dwell with you.
Wed, 29 January 2020
(2Sm.7:18-19,24-29; Ps.132:1-2,3-5,11-14,Lk.1:32; Mk.4:21-25)
“If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I shall teach them,
their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.”
Yes, “the Lord has chosen Zion; He prefers her for His dwelling.” His blessings are upon His Church and its people, for “the Lord swore to David a firm promise from which He will not withdraw: ‘Your own offspring I will set upon your throne,’” and Jesus completes that promise by establishing the New Jerusalem in His Name. But we must exhibit the “anxious care” David has shown for the preservation and promotion of the house which is ours through this Son of David and fulfillment of God’s promise.
If “the eye is the lamp of the body,” as Jesus has said elsewhere in the gospels (Mt.6:22), then we must say with David: “I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, till I find a place for the Lord.” Always our light should be shining forth; always we should be looking to “make our call and election permanent” (as Peter has elsewhere stated – 2Pt.1:10) – always we must seek to serve Him, if ever we wish to dwell with Him. For as Jesus says so poignantly to the crowd today: “Is a lamp acquired to be put under a bushel basket or hidden under a bed? Is it not meant to be put on a stand?” Thus He encourages us to bring our light “out into the open,” to let it shine forth for all to see. For then it shall be blessed.
“Listen carefully” now to what the Lord says further: “In the measure you give you shall receive.” Here is a golden rule which must be understood and practiced. For it is so that the more we share the gifts the Lord places in our hearts and at our hands, the greater these blessings grow. As we share our faith, more faithful do we become. As we speak of Him, the more do we understand of Him. In giving ourselves away for others and the sake of the kingdom, we find ourselves present in His light. And so do we grow. And so is our place in His house assured. And so we shall dwell with Him forever.
Let us pray with David in our first reading, brothers and sisters: “Bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever,” that what the Lord has promised each of us through the Son of David may come to light. As David simply asks the Lord to accomplish what He has graciously vowed to do – “Confirm for all time the prophecy you have made concerning your servant and his house” – let us beg the Lord to grant the same to His Church for the salvation of all souls who worship Him in truth and serve Him in strength. Alleluia.
O LORD, dwell in us as you have promised
that we might shine your light forth.
YHWH, who are we that you bless us with a place in your kingdom, that you shine your eternal light in our eyes? How can we know you, how can we even approach you, we who are but useless servants….? And yet you make us your sons. Let us cherish the blessing you give us and shine the light you provide.
Your House is a house for all peoples, LORD, and all peoples you would draw into your sanctuary. The promise you made to David comes to us all through the Son you place upon his throne. Now that Jesus is with us, help us to be as generous as you and serve to extend your blessing to all men. O what a blessing it is to share your love with others! Let us not be afraid or hide your light away.
All we have let us give, O LORD, for all we have is a gift from you and it is increased only when we give it to others. May all come into your presence.
Tue, 28 January 2020
(2Sm.7:4-17; Ps.89:4-5,27-30; Mk.4:1-20)
“Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”
David seems intent on establishing the Lord’s presence forever by building a permanent house in which He might dwell, but how well our God answers the great king’s thoughts with the promise of making “his posterity endure forever.” It is the Lord who establishes all, and so He states, “I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance,” to show that He thinks of us and loves us first. Though He approves and blesses our desires to care for Him and make Him known, as He shows by revealing to David that his son “shall build a house to [His] name,” He cannot be outdone in His love for us.
Solomon will build the temple of the Lord, yes, and it will be a great house in which all shall worship God and through which all shall find blessing from God. But the true Son of David upon whom the Lord’s favor rests eternally is Jesus Himself. It is His kingdom which truly “stands firm” forever. It is through Him the Lord will “destroy all [our] enemies” and grant us peace round about. He is the seed of David come to full growth, the promise of the king come to fulfillment. This is He whom the Israelites truly sought when first they asked for a king – this is God’s blessed answer to their request for one of their own to rule them.
It is clear that David is as the seed “sown on good soil” which “yield[s] thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold.” Satan shall not come to carry off what is sown through him, nor shall he “wither for lack of roots” or be choked off by the cares of this world. For as the Lord says of him, “I have been with you wherever you went”; and so His nourishment, the Spirit of the Lord which rushed upon David from his first anointing, remains, too, upon this chosen king. And though he shall sin, and though his sons shall turn away from worship of the true God, yet the Lord’s blessing remains. And in the enduring of the Lord’s correction “with the rod of men and human chastisements,” Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God, by His crucifixion and death opens the way for all children of David, all children blessed by God, to return to the Lord of all and remain with Him forever. The kingdom of Jesus is now established; let us come to this Temple and be saved.
O LORD, let us take to heart your Word
and align ourselves with your will
that we might reign forever with your Son.
YHWH, a House you make for us in the Person of your Son. His throne endures forever, and we with Him.
O LORD, make us fruitful in your NAME, in the flesh and blood of Jesus. We are worth nothing without your grace, without your blessing upon our race – without your help all our words and deeds would fall to dust. Maintain your kindness toward us, keep the teaching of your Son in our hearts, or we shall be cast from your presence.
How shall we hear the Word you wish to impart to poor souls? How shall we learn the lesson of obedience and realize it is you who establish us, who give us a House in which to dwell? You are our Father, our God, our Rock and Savior. In your Son we are made your children and so endure forever in the light of your face. Be with us now and remain with your faithful. Let us be good soil and produce fruit for you.
Mon, 27 January 2020
O wise doctor of the Church
who ate the bread of angels
in your long hours
of prayer and study and writing
and shared with us
the knowledge you gained
of the sublime truth of God,
shedding the light of reason
upon the faith we hold so dear –
teach us this day
to know God
that we might better love and serve Him,
that we might not be blind
to His presence in our midst,
to the holiness to which He calls us.
Pray we shall enter into
His Cross, His love, His obedience;
pray we, too, might have knowledge,
true knowledge of His grace
and the everlasting life
which is ours in Him…
and pray the Lord send us holy teachers
to fill your shoes.
Mon, 27 January 2020
(2Sm.6:12-15,17-19; Ps.24:7-10; Mk.3:31-35)
“Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the King of glory may come in!”
In our first reading David leads all the Israelites in, “bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.” “Dancing before the Lord with abandon,” he brings the ark into Jerusalem and sets it within its tent or tabernacle. All celebrate this day as they surround the ark on its journey and as David “offers holocausts and peace offerings before the Lord,” the ark having come to its place in the city of David. The Lord is in their midst, and so all the people rejoice.
In our gospel the ever present crowd of people is assembled, seated “in a circle” around Jesus. They surround the Lord as once the Israelites surrounded the ark – and how their hearts must celebrate at His presence in their midst. And how indeed their hearts must leap up to hear what is said of them: “These are my mother and my brothers.” For thus the Lord gathers them into His arms; thus He feeds them better than with the meat of any holocaust – thus they are protected forever by His holy presence.
“Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.” He blesses and protects all His children; He makes all who worship Him His own. And what need we do but celebrate; what need we do but shout for joy? For He is present before us. For He enters into us, into the New Jerusalem in which we dwell. Here in His Church we have His Blessed Sacrament to feed us on our way to Him. In this He is already with us, as He is in His teaching and in His priests and in all His brothers and sisters and mothers – “whoever does the will of God” becomes one with Him.
We love you, Lord our God, for your presence among us! We praise you, dearest Jesus, for your presence within us! O brothers and sisters, make room for His entry into your hearts and minds, bodies and souls, that you might enter in with Him to His heavenly kingdom. He stands and knocks at the door even now. Will you open and welcome Him into your home?
O LORD, let us rejoice before the ark of the Covenant
come into our midst in Jesus our King and Brother.
YHWH, come into our homes, into our hearts, that we might be your House, one with your Son. He is truly your Temple; let us open wide our gates that He might enter in and make His home with us.
Mother and brother and sister of Jesus let us be, O LORD, surrounding Him as His holy family. Let us rejoice at His Word and so follow your will in all things. May He look upon us with mercy and give us of Himself to eat.
What should we do but dance and sing and praise your holy NAME for your presence in our midst, for your entering our poor souls and remaining ever with us? O let us offer ourselves to you in sacrifice! that indeed your will might be done in our lives. Come and make your home in us, dearest LORD and God.
We feed upon your Word, O LORD, and on His body and blood. May He serve as King over us that we might enter your reign.
Sun, 26 January 2020
O holy virgin
and spiritual mother
to the poorest of girls,
whom you protected and guided
in wisdom and love,
keeping them from the snares
of the world
and raising them in Christ;
you who fulfilled so well
the twofold call
to love God and save souls –
pray for those
who so easily go astray
in a world of great corruption,
where souls are in danger
of being captured
by the wiles of Satan and sin;
and pray, too,
that there shall be many
who desire as you have,
with the living love of God,
to bring them into His fold.
Sun, 26 January 2020
(2Sm.5:1-7,10; Ps.89:20-22,25-26; Mk.3:22-30)
“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”
How different are the scribes who come to Jesus from the Israelites who come to David to crown him king. “The tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: ‘Here we are, your bone and your flesh.’” So united would they be to him whom the Lord had said would “shepherd [His] people Israel,” so well do they remember his leadership in war, that they wholeheartedly invite him to rule over them. They believe what God has said of His chosen king: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him,” and they confirm his anointing among them.
But the scribes would drive Jesus from their midst. And as the Jebusites vainly threatened David before he took the stronghold of Zion and began his reign in Jerusalem, so these blind leaders of the people vainly attack Jesus before His entering and taking hold of the New Jerusalem. If David was anointed by God, how much more is the Father’s anointing upon His only Son? If David’s deeds in war deserved respect and praise, how much more Him who came to teach and heal the nation? And if these scribes should not only reject Jesus but designate the holy deeds He has worked among them as coming from the prince of demons, what hope have they but to join the prince of demons in eternal damnation? For if they call the good evil, how shall they come to accept the goodness of God and enter His reign? Shall they not rather fling themselves toward the fires of hell, as even they do here, taking the evil for good, led astray as they are by their pride and jealousy?
The Lord’s hand is always with His Chosen One, “that [His] arm might make Him strong.” It is in that strength we take refuge; it is in the blessing upon Him we find life. We must invite Him who is good to rule over us – His works must be our own. If we do not recognize the truth of His words and the grace in His deeds, what hope will we have of finding the fountain that washes us clean of our sins and prepares us for the holiness of paradise? What can these scribes do but “carr[y] the guilt of [their] sin without end,” for they utterly reject Him.
Brothers and sisters, we choose life or we choose death. We choose to side with the good or turn to become one with the evil. Wickedness has no place with the grace of God and His goodness allows no evil to enter in. Jesus destroys evil: speak only the truth of this Word. The Spirit knows nothing of lies.
O LORD, may your Son rule over us all
and make us strong.
YHWH, Jesus shall shepherd your people Israel; the blind leaders cannot prevent Him from taking hold of the holy City. For your anointing is upon Him, and it is your arm that makes Him strong. O let us enter Jerusalem with Him, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh!
May the house of Satan be plundered by Him who is stronger than he; let his property be despoiled, all the accusations with which he would attack your holy ones. O let the Holy Spirit be upon us! the truth that cannot be denied. Your goodness be upon our souls, O LORD, to lead us to all light.
David was your servant, LORD, the figure of Christ, your Son. From his youth you blessed him with your grace and power, with the anointing of your Spirit. Now that Jesus has come to fulfill this blessing among us, let us welcome Him into our homes, that we might be welcomed into your House, your forgiveness in our hearts. Let none turn away from your truth.
Sat, 25 January 2020
O blessed disciples of Paul
and shepherds of the Church
who imitated so well
your father in the faith
who imitated only
the Lord Jesus Christ
and thirsted for His Cross –
pray this holy Apostle
be our father, too,
and you with him,
that we too might embrace the Cross;
teach us the sound doctrine
handed on to you
that we may hand it on
and all souls
might fight the good fight
and run the race with Jesus
unto eternal life.
Pray for all the shepherds of the Church
that they be faithful as you have been
to rightful authority.
Sat, 25 January 2020
(Is.8:23-9:3; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; 1Cor.1:10-13,17; Mt.4:12-23)
“Light has arisen.”
“Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.” Yes, “a light has shone”; Jesus has come. No longer do we walk in darkness. So we should proclaim with David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”; we should long to dwell in the Temple He has built, “gaz[ing] on the loveliness of the Lord.” Here in His House we “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Here in His Church we come to the paradise He has come to establish in this land of darkness.
The light dawns as Jesus calls His disciples to His side. Here are the beginnings of His Church, the coming of light to this earth. The Lord calls Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and they respond, and they follow the light. And the light goes forth as He goes “around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Do you see how the light grows? Do you know the light reflected in the disciples’ eyes, which shall take root and become known to all the world? Here indeed is the Church begun, the holy House of God – the New Jerusalem. And nothing shall disturb its growth; nothing shall dim or block the light that has come.
Yet what division is upon the Church Christ has founded here on the shores of Galilee. How has it come to be that we are so disobedient to Paul’s instruction “that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” How many more rivalries have we than the Corinthians. Not only do those separated from the Church declare their peculiar allegiance to various people or nations, saying, “I belong to Luther,” or “I belong to Calvin,” or “I belong to England” – and now there are some 360 different denominations, one for every day of the year, it seems – but within the Catholic Church deep divisions arise between “liberal” or “conservative” theologians, thus bringing darkness upon God’s people. The Church remains, and nothing shall overcome it, but what a poor sign it is to the world as the devil has his day in its division.
The Lord has come bringing “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for those who remain in His light. The unbroken flame rises up from these first apostles Jesus called on this one morning by the Sea of Galilee. The net extends from their hands and draws in all who truly seek to dwell in the presence of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Mirror of Knowledge" (2nd part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the Gospel be proclaimed
in strength this day
in your Son’s holy Name.
YHWH, your light has dawned upon this dark world; in Jesus your Son our salvation has come, and now we may dwell in your House with Him. Beginning on the shores of Galilee, your Word goes forth, calling all men to your kingdom. May we repent of our sin that we might enter there.
Today your Son calls the first apostles from their boats to dry land that they might be fishers of men. And so He works through His apostles even to this day. A great light shines upon those who walked in darkness – we who were sinners now come to your Temple, LORD, there, we pray, to remain all our days.
Let there be no division in your Church, dear God, but let us be united in the flesh of your Son and preach His Gospel with one voice (His own) to the ends of this dark earth. O let your holy light now shine through all He calls to be His disciples! The yoke of sin that has enslaved us be smashed, we pray, that we shall no longer be afraid, that we shall no longer walk in darkness.
Fri, 24 January 2020
O you who persecuted
the Church of God
but then preached the faith
you upon whom
abundant mercy fell,
whose weakness became strength
as each day in bearing
you grew closer to God –
show us the way
Pray we fall continually
from our horse,
from our pride,
and allow the Lord
to change our lives.
be our constant food,
that the love of Jesus
and His forgiveness
we shall ever know
in greater measure.
Fri, 24 January 2020
(Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Mk.16:15-18)
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.”
One would not have expected these words to be spoken so profoundly to the heart of St. Paul. For he, then known as Saul, had spent such time and with such vigor had persecuted the followers of Christ. Why does the Lord shine His light all about him? Why does He speak to him and reveal Himself to him? Why is it this man who is picked to bring the Name of Jesus to all the nations? Perhaps it was his very vigor in persecuting His followers Jesus admired. Perhaps his sincerity and commitment to this cause in the name of God He knew He could use for the cause of justice and right. Perhaps he is a sign to us all that none is beyond the redemption the Lord offers. We know only that he who was persecuting the Church now works to build it up. We know only the story of this great Apostle to the world.
“Recover your sight,” Ananias says to this Saul, and so Paul, once blinded by the light of the Lord, now has his eyes open to see. So he who once went about with scales on his eyes, he whose vision was once so prevented from realizing the truth of the Jesus in his midst… he who was once so like his brother Pharisees, now sees. And what he sees is not simply Ananias standing before him. What he sees standing before him in this faithful disciple of Jesus, is Christ Himself. And he realizes whom he has been persecuting, and repents. And so he is baptized. And so his mission, one wrought in the suffering of Christ, begins.
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify Him, all you peoples!” are the words of our psalmist, but they could as easily be the exhortation of the Apostle Paul. Having himself believed in the Good News proclaimed to all creation and accepted Baptism into its way, he himself now brings so many others to walk along the same path. Great signs accompany him, and his words to our ears are as those of Jesus to him, for now he is such a strong part of the Body of Christ, persecuted by this world and calling it to salvation. On this day all our hearts should turn to the Lord, that we might join Paul and profess our faith in His Name.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, help us to believe
and so turn to your Son to be saved.
YHWH, let all men turn to you as has your great Apostle. Reveal yourself to the eyes and ears of all souls who seek God, all who are zealous for the truth. Why should we continue so blind? Let all be baptized into the way of your Son and so be blessed with His power and His love.
Let us not be afraid to lay down our lives for you, O LORD. Let us not turn away from what we must suffer for your Name and that of your Son. In this we should find our joy; proclaiming the Gospel to all Creation should be the food that sustains us. Let us be the sign of your presence in this world.
Lay your hands upon us, LORD, that we might be healed. Send your disciples to us to teach us of your way and your truth. Let us enter into that way with them and declare to all that Jesus is the Messiah and in Him all souls are saved and brought to light.
Thu, 23 January 2020
O most devout spiritual guide,
great pastor of your flock
and of all souls,
you who speak to us
even this day
with your words of wisdom
and blessed direction –
pray every branch
of Jesus’ vine
may aspire to His perfection;
in whatever state we find ourselves,
let us set our hearts
on loving the Lord
and serving Him and neighbor
Teach us to pray faithfully,
to offer our lives
in all situations,
all for the glory of God.
Our call may we hear
and heed by your intercession,
following the Christ and carrying His Cross
as He leads.
Thu, 23 January 2020
(1Sm.24:3-21; Ps.57:2-4,6,11; Mk.3:13-19)
“Sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”
Today we see David at perhaps his most humble and obedient in the sight of God – we see why he is the great king of Israel.
David is being hunted down by Saul once again in his jealousy. His psalm, our psalm today, is his cry for protection from the Lord in whom he trusts: “I call to God Most High, to God, my benefactor. May He send from heaven and save me.” To the cave in which he hides, God sends his pursuer, vulnerable and at arm’s length. But this man who will be king of the Israelites by God’s ordination refrains from taking the sword into his hand to kill the man who would kill him. Why? Because Saul is yet the king, “the Lord’s anointed,” whom David even calls “a father to me” despite the threat he is to his life. Such an act of respect, such an understanding of the obedience due God and His will is unparalleled in Scripture. This is David. This is the king.
And how tragic a figure is Saul. Upon having his eyes turned inward to his very soul and the injustice he wreaks upon David, he weeps aloud in recognition of his sin: “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.” It is he who speaks the words of our quote today, he who recognizes the truly kingly nature of David… Yet for all his penance and insight it shall not be long before his jealousy leads him to pursue David unrighteously once again. He cannot escape his envy for David’s blessing.
And in our gospel we read of the blessed apostles of Christ, those “men He Himself had decided on,” whom He summoned and “who came and joined Him.” These “He would send to preach the Good News”; these would “have authority to expel demons.” They are named by name for us today: here is the foundation of the Church in which God dwells. Here are His blessed kings of the New Jerusalem. Let us not be jealous of them. Let no man attempt to breach the authority given them; for pursue them as one would, none shall take their blessing away – it is they who are ordained by God for His service. Humbly let us join them in their sovereignty over Israel. Obediently let us come into the Lord’s kingdom.
O LORD, though your justice is beyond our reach,
in your mercy make us your disciples.
YHWH, those whom you appoint must be respected. It is you who anoint the king and ordain apostles. Jesus is your only Son and He has chosen the Twelve to follow Him. Who are we to go against His will and pursue them and those who continue in their stead?
O LORD, you have made Peter the rock of your Church and given all your apostles power to preach the Gospel and expel all demons. At their hands your presence becomes real, of your Son’s flesh and blood we partake, and we are forgiven our sins. If David your chosen could not kill an unjust king because of your blessing upon him, how much less can we usurp the power of the bishops and priests who stand this day in the very place of Jesus? O let us learn the respect and obedience to your will that King David has clearly shown!
You protect your righteous ones, dearest LORD and God. And so we need have no fear as long as we take refuge in your justice.
Wed, 22 January 2020
O lover of the least,
the most wretched of society,
whom you embraced
when no one else would;
how like St. Francis you were
in your care for the lepers,
in your living the Gospel
as an image of Christ:
He was hungry and you fed Him,
thirsty and you gave Him drink,
naked and you clothed Him
and cared for Him when He was sick –
pray our hearts will burn
with the same sacrificial love
you bore so well
for those most abandoned,
that truly we shall see Christ in them
and welcome Him
into our homes…
may their suffering be our own.
How else shall we become holy?
How else shall we be welcomed
into the kingdom with you?
Wed, 22 January 2020
O martyr of the Lord extraordinaire
who suffered unspeakable torture
but was not bowed
by such savagery,
who spoke of great faith,
singing of God’s glory
even as your limbs
even as all the brutality
the world could inflict
sought to break
your spirit –
help us to conquer the world
as you have done,
as the Lord has done in you,
not to be afraid
but rather to serve
our Savior and His Cross
as His blessed disciples;
pray we, too, shall enter the heavenly gates
open to those in whom the Spirit speaks
even unto death.
Wed, 22 January 2020
(1Sm.18:6-9,19:1-7; Ps.56:2-3,5,9-14; Mk.3:7-12)
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Jesus His millions. He slays an untold number of “unclean spirits [who] would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” “A great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude” from all the surrounding regions. So great were their numbers He needed a boat to escape the press upon Him. For He “cured many,” and many more desired to be touched by Him.
The women sing of David’s greatness upon his return from slaying the Philistine. Their rightful attribution of praise for David, through whom “the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel” and so for its king (who had himself sought someone to stand against the giant Goliath), does nothing but provoke resentment and jealousy from King Saul. His anger even leads to his plotting to kill the man who has saved his kingdom; and though he sets aside his plan “of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause” for the moment, the plot never leaves his heart and shall repeatedly surface with greater intensity. Thus Saul proves his inability to serve as king of the Lord’s people. Thus his pride shall be his demise.
And rightfully does Saul claim of David that “all that remains for him is the kingship,” for in fact he has already been anointed king in place of Saul by Samuel the prophet. And though as with the kingship of Jesus, who silences the demons from revealing “who He was,” David’s crown shall remain hidden for a time, inevitably – again, as with the Lord’s reign – those who “press their attack against” the Lord’s anointed shall be turned back and the true king shall “walk before God in the light of the living.” It is inevitable for it is God’s will, and neither the jealousy of Saul nor the plotting of the Pharisees – the jealous kings who would be overthrown by Jesus – can turn aside what God has ordained.
The Lord is with David. Though his “adversaries trample upon [him] all the day,” he sings in praise of God in his psalm: “You have rescued me from death.” And so we see how our psalms sing of Jesus Himself and why He is called Son of David. For the greatest victory the Lord God shall achieve will be the resurrection of His Son from the dead, and the redemption of the many souls who shall follow Him.
O LORD, we press upon you with our afflictions,
and by your Son’s intercession we are saved.
YHWH, how many evil spirits have you slain? How many enemies have you turned back for those who trust in your NAME? Though many fight against us, we are saved when we call out to you – forever we shall be safe from the malice of the wicked.
Your Son has come to our shores and cured us of our afflictions. By His grace He has freed us from all sin and evil. His power is greater than that of the devil though the devil sit on the throne of a king. For the spirit is greater than the flesh, and trusting in your Spirit, O LORD, we are released from the weakness of the flesh upon which the devil preys and made victorious in your NAME.
Thousands may we too slay if we keep our vows to you and in you find our strength. Then on the Day of your Son’s return, the angels shall sing of the glory which is ours in you and in Him, O LORD, as we enter your reign.
Tue, 21 January 2020
(1Sm.17:32-33,37,40-51; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Mk.3:1-6)
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the Lord.”
“The battle is the Lord’s” is the simple truth David proclaims to all those who stand in arms. To “all this multitude,” he declares “that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.” Thus with David’s defeat of the Philistine giant is emphasized what has already been revealed in the anointing of this ruddy youth as king and the loss of that kingship by the tall-in-stature Saul: the exalted are humbled and the humbled exalted. For God blesses those who make Him their “rock,” trusting not in their own wealth or strength. “My refuge and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me,” David chants in praise of the Lord in his holy psalm. And so should we all take refuge in the Lord, and find strength in praising His Name.
And in “hoping to be able to bring an accusation against Him,” do not the Pharisees come, too, with sword and spear against God’s holy one today in our gospel? And do they not make this violence clear in their turning “to plot with the Herodians on how they might destroy Him”? They are defeated in battle by the Word of truth which issues forth and indeed is embodied by the Christ of God, Jesus, Son of David, Son of God. They cannot contradict the authority of His teaching or the blessing of the healing He brings from the Father on high, but yet they harden their hearts and close “their minds against Him,” seeking to confirm their trust in the warring hand of this world in the capture and crucifixion of their Savior. But the battle is the Lord’s, and their attempts to destroy Him shall prove the fruitlessness of such trust in violence – indeed, their killing Him with sword and spear shall be the instrument which leads to His resurrection, bringing the dawn of new life in whose light death itself, and the pride of man, shall be destroyed forever.
Let all know it is the Lord who fights for those whom He loves, those who trust in Him and His ways, who seek to do good and not evil, to “preserve life” and not “destroy it.” The question Jesus poses to the Pharisees He presents to us: do we cherish the saving power of the Lord of life and take refuge and joy in Him, or do we reach for the weapons at our side to destroy Him? The posturing of this world is vain, for it is God who holds life and death in His Hand.
O LORD, you save us from the clutches of evil men.
YHWH, the battle is yours. You strengthen our hands against the enemy and give victory to your chosen ones. Despite the plots of those who surround us with evil intent, despite the might of the armies arrayed against us, you give confidence to those who trust in you, for with you the faithful soul triumphs over the powers of this world.
You deliver us in the day of battle, dear God; you are our refuge, our stronghold, and by your hand we destroy those who come at us with closed minds and hardened hearts, railing against your holy One. They cannot stand before your awesome power – their swords and spears are broken by the Word that issues from your mouth.
The head of the snake shall be cut off, crushed by the feet of your lowly ones, and we shall sing your praise, O LORD. Forever we shall be preserved from the violence of the enemy.
Mon, 20 January 2020
O holy virgin martyr,
O innocent child
who offered your life
more freely than a bride
to her husband,
more courageously than a warrior
who though lacking in years
was not lacking in faith
nor desire to honor
your only Spouse…
you who were honored
by the Fathers of the Church
and are remembered to this day
as a holy offering,
a lamb of God sacrificed in flames
yet professing ever
your love for Christ –
but a small measure of your courage
would save our souls.
Pray but a drop of His blood
we may know
falling from our veins.
Mon, 20 January 2020
(1Sm.16:1-13; Ps.89:20-22,27-28; Mk.2:23-28)
“Man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”
Indeed, how different the vision of God from the vision of man, and how well the Lord illustrates this in His rejection of Saul and His choosing of David. When Samuel sees Eliab, whose appearance and “lofty stature” are reminiscent of Saul, even this great seer is blinded by his eyes and must be directed by God to look beyond what is apparent to his sight. All seven sons brought to the feast are rejected by the Lord, and the youngest, “who is tending the sheep,” must be sent for. Jesse, his father, did not think David worthy of coming to the sacrificial banquet, but it is he who is the centerpiece of the celebration. This ruddy youth is the one chosen by the eyes of God.
And lest we think that there is some kind of diametrical opposition between physical beauty and interior loveliness, we must note that David is not ugly to behold and the Lord does not choose him for a poor appearance. He too was “handsome… and making a splendid appearance.” But the beauty of David finds its source not in the skin but in a heart set on God, and it is this faithfulness and dedication to Him upon which the Lord gazes and, so, chooses, and not upon the curls falling around his face. David’s appearance is beautiful because his soul is beautiful, and his soul is beautiful because it finds its life in God. And so, from the day of his anointing by Samuel, God’s prophet, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” and there remained, for it had found its proper home.
In our gospel we have a quote like unto the one separated out for this day, and expressive of a similar lesson: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath,” Jesus tells the Pharisees critical of His disciples picking, peeling, and eating heads of grain on the Lord’s Day. For what do the Pharisees do but judge the law by its appearance alone, and fail to look into its heart. The law is indeed beautiful to behold and was made for man for his benefit, to draw him close to God; but how far from its purpose these leaders of the people have come, and so, how distant from the Lord they stand – unable to recognize Him as He stands before them. The sabbath itself was made for man’s rest and refreshment from labor, and yet when the disciples of Christ pick and eat to allay their hunger, to find refreshment for their failing bodies, these Pharisees deem it evil. Again one wonders how they can be so blind. Again it is apparent that they are unable to see beyond the surface. Empty indeed are their hearts.
As He has done for David, the Lord makes us strong, makes us fruitful and beautiful. He blesses our works as the works of this “highest of the kings of the earth,” if those works are founded in Christ. If we truly say with David, “You are my father, my God, the rock, my savior,” the Lord will hear us, and finding His presence in our hearts, He will bless us, even as His only Son.
O LORD, your Spirit be with us as with David,
as with Jesus.
YHWH, give us eyes to see what you see, hearts to understand your will. Your Spirit dwell within us that we might be as your Chosen One.
O LORD, as we are presented before you, may we be acceptable in your sight. Let our hearts not be hardened to your Word but anointed by your Son’s blood. O that we might call you our Father and know Jesus as our Savior! Give us your Wisdom that we might radiate your beauty to all who look upon us this day.
David you blessed, dear God, as king of kings, as the child upon whom your favor rested. Is He not the figure of your only Son? In Him do we not see presaged the Christ who would be Lord even of the Sabbath?
And are we not called to be joined to Him, to have His anointing upon us this day, His Spirit to guide us in all things? Let us be fed by your Anointed, O LORD, that His crown might be upon our heads, that our eyes might be open to His glory.
Sun, 19 January 2020
O soldier for Christ
who sought with such courage
to embrace His Cross,
to die a death
worthy of such a Lord,
you whose heart
was so set
on imitating the suffering
only He knew
and so were rewarded
with the crown of martyrdom –
where is our courage;
where is our strength?
Pray for us,
O warrior of our Lord and God,
that our lives
may bear witness
to approach your own,
that we shall not shrink
from the Cross before us
but with your same zeal
seek to make it our own.
Pray the blood of Christ upon us.
Sun, 19 January 2020
O Holy Father of the Church,
Pastor of the sheep of our Lord
who have given your life freely
for the name of Christ
and its spreading
throughout the earth,
you whose blood was shed
by the persecutors
of the body
but whose soul
was ever in the Hand of God –
pray our lives
shall be lived in integrity
and our death correspond,
that a blessed witness
we too shall give
to the glory of God
and His Son Jesus Christ,
and so lead others
to that same glory.
May none of the flock
or their shepherds
fear the sacrifice of their lives.
Sun, 19 January 2020
(1Sm.15:16-23; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mk.2:18-22)
“Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the Lord?
The answer to the question Samuel puts to Saul is, in a word, “No.” “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.” Nothing does the Lord deem greater than our hearing and heeding His Word, than our obedience to His will. And nothing will save us, nothing will preserve our place in His kingdom like our doing what He asks of us.
Saul loses his kingship for his disobedience to the command of the Lord. The Lord has told him to destroy the enemy he invades and all that belongs to them. Saul retains some of the animals to bring back for sacrifice to God. Why waste them? Why not honor God with them? Reasonable thoughts to the human mind, but not the will of God. And in heeding these thoughts is revealed the seed of Saul’s rebellion against God, which will lead to his attempts to destroy the king (David) the Lord has chosen to replace him, and end in his own suicide.
How prone the human mind is to favor its own counsels against those of God. How foolish seem submission and obedience, especially when they go against our own logic. But David will show the humility God desires in those He would bless. “To him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God,” He promises us. David will be one who does not hate the discipline of the Lord or cast His words behind his back. When all justification is present for his killing Saul, who hunts down God’s chosen like an animal, he forgoes every opportunity, respecting his pursuer as God’s anointed. How different his attitude from Saul’s, he who “rejected the command of the Lord” by taking matters in his own soiled hands.
The blessing obedience is, the transcendent joy of joining oneself to the will of the Lord, is evident in our gospel as well, in Jesus’ teaching that “new wine is poured into new skins” and not old. Fasting is a blessed sacrifice provided by the law and by God. But as wholesome as this practice, or any other religious observance, can be, it does not supersede being present to the Lord. If we are not present to Him, all our works become empty. The disciples are so close to Jesus, so happy to be in His company, it is as if they have stepped into heaven – and so how can the law’s prescription for fasting touch them in a place where fasting is no longer necessary? Indeed, they shall fast upon His death, and we know our great saints have performed great fasts and sacrifices in the Name of the Lord and for His glory… but first the grace of God must be with us all, or all becomes empty show.
It is the new wine of which we drink now, brothers and sisters; it is the Word become whole which is ours. Let us now be obedient to the Lord’s command, and all we do will be joy for us and for our God.
O LORD, make of us new wineskins
that we might bear your Word within ourselves.
YHWH, let us not question your Word or your will but walk in your way, for only by such obedience will we find salvation. Let us not pull away from you or presume our thoughts above your own. For in such foolishness we shall surely die – how can we remain if rejected by you?
And surely shall our rejection come if we fail to listen to your command and do your bidding. For your command is life to us, O LORD, and following in your way our means to glory; thus we will be without hope if we turn from your discipline.
Let us listen to Jesus, Him whom you have sent as Bridegroom among us. In His presence our hearts rejoice, and apart from Him we can only fast. But in feasting and in sacrifice He is our treasure; Him do we love. And so, let us be obedient to His teaching, LORD, that your blessing we might ever find.
Sat, 18 January 2020
(Is.49:3,5-6; Ps.40:2,4,7-10; 1Cor.1:1-3; Jn.1:29-34)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is “the Son of God,” the One upon whom he has seen “the Spirit come down and remain.” And we are all His servants, made holy only in Him. John declares his own servitude, speaking of “the one who sent [him] to baptize with water,” and stating, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.” His witness to Jesus and the strength he takes from Him is clear, as is the case with St. Paul, who declares himself “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and goes on to say that, indeed, all the Church is “called to be holy” in Jesus Christ. This call from the Lord to be His servant, and that it is through His servants the Lord shows His glory, is prophesied in strength by Isaiah in our first reading, showing that even before Christ came to be born among us He indeed existed and through Him the Father called His servants, His children, to Himself. For Isaiah speaks for God, saying, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here he speaks of Jesus; here he knows even in his time of the salvation the Lord brings.
And David in our psalm echoes the same theme of the servitude of Christ and the servitude in Christ to which all are called, and which acts as a light to this world. “Ears open to obedience you gave me,” proclaims the great and humble king, and sings as if in the voice of Christ: “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” What great blessing it indeed is to share in the servitude of Jesus, to have His song placed in our mouths, to make our lives “a hymn to our God.” He makes us His own and we share in the blood that flows through His veins when we place ourselves in the service of the Lord.
The Lord calls. He is among us now and has made His salvation known. Through the prophets, through the Baptist, through His apostles and martyrs and saints – through “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” He reveals His glory day to day. It is His desire that we be strong in Him as we join to Him and are baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit. His grace and peace He would leave with us, His glory He would reveal through us, if His servants we would make ourselves this day. Find your strength in Him, brothers and sisters. He stoops toward you and hears your cry, and will instill His song of praise in your hearts, to be declared to all the world.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we all testify
that Jesus is the Son of God;
by Him may all souls be saved.
YHWH, ears open to obedience give us that we might be your servants, that we might be as the Body of your only Son, doing your will in all things, ever making Him known. Let all we do testify to His presence in our midst that salvation may come to all men, even to the ends of the earth. Your apostles, your prophets, please make us, crying out your way, calling all to holiness in the Lamb of God.
Jesus is the One who is greater than us, greater than any man who has walked this earth, for only He is your Son, dear God; only He sanctifies the human race by His blessed sacrifice. Let our lips not be restrained, but let us declare His glory to all souls.
You have stooped toward us, O LORD; through Jesus you have shown us your glory. Your Servant you have called and sent among us that we all might become your servants in Him. O let your law be so in our hearts and the doing of your will our delight! Alleluia!
Fri, 17 January 2020
(1Sm.9:1-4,17-19,10:1; Ps.21:2-7; Mk.2:13-17)
“You are to govern the Lord’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies round about.”
Tall and handsome, Saul gives every appearance of a king. And so God gives the people what they want in this “handsome young man” who “stood head and shoulders above the people.” But with Saul the Lord shall indeed prove that it is not upon appearances He gazes. In the failure of Saul’s reign will be revealed the emptiness of such outward attraction and our proclivity to desire what is appealing to the eye. For Saul shall not prove to be God’s anointed; His Christ shall be quite another.
It is not of Saul our psalm of David sings when it speaks of the blessings of the king. The “majesty and splendor [the Lord] conferred upon him” is as passing as his beauty. The “crown of pure gold” is to be placed upon the head of Jesus Christ alone; it is He the Father has made “a blessing forever.” His glory will be reflected in David, the ruddy shepherd youth whose son he is called, but will be fulfilled only in the Person of Jesus. It is He in whom all kings rejoice, in whom all find “the joy of [God’s] presence,” in whom all discover victory.
In our gospel, Jesus, the true king, comes, not with stately train, but “walking along the lakeshore.” And crowds of people follow Him, people not of power and riches or reputation; rather, “many tax collectors and those known as sinners joined Him.” This greatly disturbed the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees – it was not according to their vision of who He should be and what He should do. “Why does He eat with such as these?” they complain to His disciples. But He has a ready answer, one which cuts to the heart of us all and reveals the nature and purpose of this true king: “People who are healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do.” And so the Savior comes into our midst, neither tall nor handsome nor desiring praise, to save us from our sin.
We are all sick, brothers and sisters! Make no doubt; have no question about it. We need Him! It is this king and the “goodly blessings” that flow from Him that must be our heart’s desire, for He alone will bring us into the joy of the kingdom; He alone will save us from the sin into which we have all fallen. Let us follow Him as Levi, leaving behind our sinful station in life, and He will govern us well.
O LORD, Jesus you have made King over us
that we might be saved from sin
and rejoice in your presence forever.
YHWH, your Son, our King, has come to call us from our sin, to save men in need of healing. And who among us is not in need of Him? Pity the poor soul who thinks himself so.
What are we in your sight, O LORD? However tall we might be, we are no more than ants. To you all men are sick and in need of a physician; you see how quickly our beauty fades.
Oh if we could only see as you see! If we could only recognize your greatness among us in the humble stature of Jesus, the holy One. Make us ready to follow Him as Matthew from his post. Somehow open our eyes to see His gaze passing before us.
Save us from the grasp of our enemies round about. Only you could govern us; only in you could we rejoice in victory. O LORD, let us join your Son in majesty and splendor – for us He is a blessing forever. In Him we find all we need. In Him we are all anointed kings.
Thu, 16 January 2020
O father of monks
and all who would give themselves
completely to the Lord,
you who have been so obedient
to the word of God,
to His call
to sell everything,
to renounce all possessions
and follow Him –
how we need your prayers
when love for material things
possesses our very bodies
when prayer and penance
seem things of the distant past.
Make present to us
the blessed call of the Lord,
the renunciation of the world,
that we too might find
the riches of Heaven
you knew so well.
Pray we give up all for God.
Thu, 16 January 2020
(1Sm.8:4-7,10-22; Ps.89:2,16-19; Mk.2:1-12)
“We have never seen anything like this!”
What the Lord can do, no one else is able to do – no king, no prophet, no priest. Though all may do in His name, nothing is done except through Him. He alone forgives sins; He alone heals. He alone fights our battles, for He alone rules over us.
In asking Samuel to appoint a king over them, the Israelites reject the rule of God in their lives. If they but believed, the Lord would take care of all their concerns and they would keep all His blessings – their children, their animals, their land… as their own. But they do not trust in Him; rather, they fear the world, the surrounding nations, and seek to be like them, to fight as they do – to have one of their own to rule them. And thus they will lose what they have, for when we give all to God, He returns all we give with manifold blessing; but when we trust in man, giving ourselves to him, he swallows up our offerings.
Our psalm expresses well the attitude we should have toward God. It should be “in the light of [His] countenance” we walk. It should be “at [His] name [we] rejoice all the day.” We should say with our psalmist: “To the Lord belongs our shield, and to the Holy One of Israel, our king.” And so it is Jesus who must be our King; He alone must rule our lives, for He alone truly belongs to God; He alone is the Son of God.
The scribes were right to ask, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” for God alone stood before them, forgiving the sins of His children. And it is now by His power, His presence, that our priests forgive men’s sins in His name. “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and He does not take that power from the face of the earth upon His return to the Father’s side in heaven: He multiplies that power – as well as the power to teach, to, in this sense, rule our lives – in His holy Church and its appointed leaders. What He granted to the Israelites because of their stubbornness of heart, He now brings full circle by blessing us with the presence of Christ: our king, our prophet, and our priest. No longer is it blasphemy for one to stand in God’s stead, for the Lord has visited His people.
And should we not praise Him, therefore, for the wonders He accomplishes in our midst? Should we not shout for joy for His blessings? For now we have a king to rule us, a king greater than any other; now we need not fear the attacks of any nation. For even Satan He holds in His hands and casts him out at will; and so we are able to return to our land, to stand up and “go home.” May “all give praise to God” for His goodness to us, turning our foolishness and sin to His grace and blessing before our very eyes.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your countenance;
you alone are our strength.
YHWH, forgive us our sins, forgive our rejecting your rule over us. Forgive our seeking to be like other nations with one like ourselves as our king – O why do we not cherish your presence in our midst? But thank you for sending your Son to be our King, to be Lord over us, for by this grace you take our foolish desire and make it holy. By Him we are redeemed from our sin… By Him we are forgiven.
Only you, O God, can forgive our sins, and this you do through your Son. For He shares your authority – He Himself is God. And this power to forgive sins you extend to men who stand this day in Jesus’ stead. Though we be weak and sinful, in His Name all is accomplished according to your will.
And in your Church men now also teach in the Name of Jesus, and so in your NAME as well. O LORD, let us hear your Word, let us know your healing, that all the day we might give praise to you.
Wed, 15 January 2020
(1Sm.4:1-11; Ps.44:10-11,14-15,24-25,27; Mk.1:40-45)
“Our souls are bowed down to the dust;
our bodies are pressed to the earth.”
The Israelites suffer “a disastrous defeat” at the hands of their worst enemy. Not only do they lose thirty thousand men, but the ark of God – “who is enthroned upon the cherubim” which protect it – the tabernacle which holds the manna and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This most holy ark is taken into the camp of the Philistines. How can this be? The Israelites trusted in God’s presence to save them, and they are beaten down. Our psalm addresses their plight directly: “You have cast us off and put us in disgrace, and you go not forth with our armies… those who hated us plundered us at will.” And so the psalmist cries out with the defeated Israelites, “Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression?”
The Israelites – like the thieves on the cross either side of Christ, like us all – deserved their crushing defeat. They, again, as us all, turned their faces from the Lord of hosts to worship false and empty gods. There should be no question as to why the chastising hand of God is upon any of us. But our psalm is about more than this defeat of Israel or even our own punishment for sin. Written as the voice of Jesus Himself, it reveals the suffering of the innocent Lamb of God in our stead: “You made us the reproach of our neighbors, the mockery and the scorn of those around us.” Jesus endures the scourging and the crown of thorns and the crucifixion for no other reason than to save our souls from similar fate, and worse, from condemnation. The sinless dove dies for the sinful flesh, which keeps us all in prison and pushes our faces to the dust. Though the sons of the high priest die in battle and are no more, Jesus lives, and through His death in battle for our souls, all now live.
In our gospel “a leper approach[es] Jesus with a request, kneeling down as he address[es] Him.” Here we all are as sinners, symbolized by this outcast, coming earnestly to Jesus and humbling ourselves to the ground which, without God, is our place, is the dust from which we come and to which we return. Jesus is “moved with pity.” Jesus “stretch[es] out His hand.” Jesus “touch[es] him,” and says: “Be cured.” And the man is made whole.
Yes, this leper must be each of us, brothers and sisters. Humbly, our faces to the ground, knowing our sin and being repentant of it, we must come to Him. And He will raise our souls from the dust and our bodies from the earth into which they have fallen. This is why He has come; let us come to Him.
O LORD, we come to you to beg your grace:
make us no longer the laughingstock of the nations.
YHWH, our bodies are pressed to the earth; we are bowed down to the dust. As the leper we come before you begging your healing touch. May your Son reach out to us that we might be saved from all evil.
Disastrous defeat we suffer at the hands of the devil for we have sinned against you, O LORD our God. Our enemies overcome us for you do not fight with us, and so we are without a savior. Our courage fails for we are alone and have no help from you.
What can we do on our own, dear God? Of what worth are our souls left to their own device? Where shall we find the strength to withstand the attack against us? Our oppressors bring us to woe, we are put to disgrace, for you have cast us off and we cannot enter battle alone.
O LORD, if you will to do so, you can cure us! Turn with pity to your wayward sons. Hide not your face from us, but let us know the merciful gaze of Jesus.
Tue, 14 January 2020
(1Sm.3:1-10,19-20; Ps.40:2-5,7-10; Mk.1:29-39)
“To do your will, O Lord, is my delight.”
O how Samuel shows the “ears open to obedience” we all must have. For when called, even from sleep, he immediately and repeatedly rises and presents himself for service to the Lord. Even from his youth he is with the Lord and in His will. Such readiness to serve is also revealed in Peter’s mother-in-law, who, when touched by Jesus, “immediately began to wait on them.” She, too, rises quickly from bed (and sickness) to do the work of the Lord.
And certainly Jesus Himself is our greatest example of readiness to do God’s will, for He and the Father are indeed one and all He does is according to the Father’s word. After healing the “whole town” of their afflictions, working to exhaustion to arouse those imprisoned by the darkness of demons and bringing them into the light of God for service of the good, He rises “early the next morning” and goes “off to a lonely place in the desert,” where “He was absorbed in prayer.” When the disciples find Him, He is prepared to move on to the next town and the same exhausting work in service of the will of God, saying of the need to “proclaim the good news”: “That is what I have come to do.”
It is said of Samuel: he “grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” And so, well does this great prophet presage the coming of Christ – He who fulfills the will of the Father – and the faith of all those who follow Him. For all those who wait for the Lord, He stoops toward. To all those who say, “Behold, I come,” He Himself comes, He Himself strengthens… His greatness He makes known through His children. So it is written in the scroll and upon our hearts: so is the will of God accomplished in our lives.
Only Him do we serve, brothers and sisters. His voice alone we must hear and heed. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” must ever be our attitude toward the Creator of heaven and earth and the Savior of our souls. The Spirit’s lead we must follow readily. And He will be with us to bless and give us the strength we need to work in Him beyond exhaustion, beyond sickness… beyond death. Life will be ours.
O LORD, let your Good News be proclaimed
that all might hear and be healed
and ready to answer your call.
YHWH, to do your will is our delight, is our holy call in this world. Let us be so blessed to hear your voice and accomplish the work you set before us. Let nothing we say be without effect; let us never act apart from you. Somehow let us find you so present to us as you were to Samuel – somehow let us follow in the footsteps of your Son.
In the temple let us dwell, in your holy resting place. Before the ark of the Covenant let us keep watch – never let your light be extinguished from our hearts and minds. Ready let us be to answer your call and show ourselves your servants. O LORD, let us do your will.
Why should we be afflicted when your Son is near to cast all demons from our souls, to heal us of every illness. To His door let us come, O LORD, and He will reach out His hand to save us. Give light to these eyes blinded by age and the falsehood of this evil world. In obedience let us stand before you.
Mon, 13 January 2020
(1Sm.1:9-20; 1Sm.2:1,4-8; Mk.1:21-28)
“May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
For He holds all authority. “He gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey.” “The Lord puts to death and gives life; He casts down to the nether world; He raises up again.” All He wills, He does – nothing is beyond His reach and power. And His desire is to answer your prayer. If you are faithful as is Hannah, if you come before Him in such sincerity and truth, then what you ask shall be yours; for He Himself is sincerity and truth and goodness, and when you join yourself to Him, you join yourself to His authority… and find the answer to your prayer by His presence in your heart.
And so your heart shall exult with Hannah’s. And so you shall see how “He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap He lifts up the poor.” Indeed the prayer of the poor touches His heart and He “seat[s] them with nobles and make[s] a glorious throne their heritage.” To heaven do they come, for heaven is their love.
How evident is the Lord’s will and favor to those lowly ones who seek Him in the birth of Samuel – whose very name means “asked of the Lord” – to the barren wife Hannah. None could be poorer in blessing than she; ridiculed by the world is she for the Lord’s lack of favor toward her. But as bitter as the fruit she must taste, she does not rebel against her God, but comes to Him in all humility and with a heart full of prayer and eyes filled with tears. And He loves His child. And one of the greatest men of the Old Testament becomes her son. And her song in praise of the Lord foreshadows Mary’s own.
“Jesus entered the synagogue on the sabbath and began to teach.” He comes to us now with His Word, His authority. Where Hannah sought Him, He now comes to us, offering freely the wisdom and power and grace which are His alone. And there is nothing which stands in the way of that Word. There is nothing to prevent its coming to our hearts and healing our souls of all injury, if we but listen, if we but seek His presence in our lives – if we but promise to give all to Him, He will give all we ask to us.
O LORD, you have granted what we have asked of you
in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, the needy you lift up from the dust; the barren wife bears seven sons and the poor man you seat with nobles. For you hear the prayer of those who cry to you, who believe in you despite their misery and come with a sincere heart – you cannot resist our tears. You have all authority and that authority you wield to heal those in need and teach us your way of holiness.
And so our hearts exult in you, O LORD. You give us victory over all our enemies. Sin you cast far from our souls; all unclean spirits vanish at your Word. The holy One you have sent to us, and He is our LORD and Savior.
And so we are rich in Jesus, your Son. And so a glorious throne you make our heritage. Though a moment before we may have been in the throes of evil, though so long we may have dwelt in sorrow, you give us new life and raise us to your side. In Jesus let us make our home.
Sun, 12 January 2020
O shepherd and doctor
of God’s holy Church,
is this not what you would declare
with all your breath
to the ends of the earth:
“Jesus is the Son of God
and God Himself”?
Would you not proclaim
the true light of Scripture
and the Word, the Light,
become flesh in our midst?
Know, O saint of the Lord,
that your words reach our ears
and our hearts
even to this day,
and this day we proclaim you holy
and your words true –
continue to speak to us;
please intercede for us,
that the Truth you declared
will be taken up again
by those in His stead today.
Sun, 12 January 2020
(1Sm.1:1-8; Ps.116:12-19; Mk.1:14-20)
“Hannah was childless.”
And so she would “weep and refuse to eat,” for it was “a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.”
But He will not leave her barren long. Her husband’s love for her despite her condition and her own prayers will soon be answered: she will give birth to the great prophet and priest, Samuel, who will anoint kings in Israel.
And her song of joy, which will foreshadow our Blessed Mother’s own Magnificat, is here foreshadowed in our psalm in praise of the Lord’s favor to His servants: “To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as is her faithfulness in fulfilling her vow to offer her son entirely to God: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people.” All who have looked upon her shame and sorrow shall marvel at the blessing the Lord’s “handmaid” will receive as He looses her bonds of emptiness and makes her fruitful in His eyes.
And in our gospel the Lord awakens the empty womb of the earth, stirring it to life. “The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the Good News!” He proclaims to a people in darkness. And children He brings forth from this barren country, the disciples He calls unto Himself, to be the first to share in His life. And they come forth, these pillars of the Church; they leave behind the world, all the world, to follow Him. Immediately, “on the spot,” they “became His followers.” “Along the Sea of Galilee,” beside this simple body of water, the waves of grace call forth from the darkness the light that shall illumine all men.
“How shall [we] make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for [us]?” How shall we poor sinners, barren of good works, unfruitful in His sight, thank Him for hearing our grieving cries? Simply, we must bear fruit in His name.
We are no longer childless.
O LORD, call us to yourself
that we might be childless no more.
YHWH, let us enter the temple singing your praise, for though we sit here in darkness weeping for our barrenness before you, you shall hear our prayer, you shall answer our weeping and make us fruitful in your sight. For now the Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, the Good News your Son brings to us through His blessed apostles, and our lives will be reformed and we made ready to enter your presence.
Look upon us, LORD our God, as here we toil in vain for the bread which cannot satisfy our souls. For you alone do we long, and long have we been waiting in tears for you to come to us and call us to your side. Hearing the sound of your Son’s voice, what can we do but rejoice? For He is our light in this darkness.
And so, let us offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving; let us leave all behind now to follow your Son, for He leads us to fruitful labor in your holy NAME. O LORD, let us die to the things of this world that we might live in glory forever.
Sat, 11 January 2020
(Is.42:1-4,6-7; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Acts 10:34-38; Mt.3:13-17)
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”
And so He anoints us all in the baptism our Savior has wrought. As Jesus humbled Himself to be baptized by John, so must we bow our heads before Him and receive holy baptism at His hands. As He has laid down His life for us, so must we lay down our lives for one another. As “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,” so God is with us to do the same.
“The Spirit of God descend[ed] like a dove and [came] upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” So Matthew recounts the Baptism of our Lord. And how similar is the beginning of our reading from Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.” The chosen one of the ages now walks amongst us, the Spirit of God upon Him. His justice now extends to the ends of the earth, calling all into His blessed confines. None who come to Him does He reject. The “eyes of the blind” He opens, the prisoners He brings “from confinement” in the sin and darkness of the dungeon that is this world to the heavenly light of His presence walking among us in sacred flesh. “In every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him,” for He loves all.
And so should we not sing out in praise of the glory of the Lord to which we are all called as did David at the completion of the tabernacle of God? For here stands the true Tabernacle, here stands its fulfillment… before us is God who calls us not only to look upon but to enter into His doors and dwell within Him in His heart, in His bosom – one with His sacred flesh and blood. The law is now written on our hearts, not only pages of a book; now the Spirit speaks to those who remain close to Him. Now we hear the “mighty” and “majestic” “voice of the Lord… over the waters”: “the God of glory thunders.” “In His temple all say, ‘Glory!’” And should we not “give to the Lord the glory due His Name”? Does not our cup overflow as Peter’s to declare the salvation that comes at the hand of our God?
Jesus has come. The Spirit is with us. Go now in the Spirit and power of God.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, may your Son, our King,
bring your merciful justice to all who dwell in darkness.
YHWH, your mighty voice is over the waters, declaring the glory of your Son to a people in darkness. Your Spirit is upon Jesus to open our eyes to your glory here now in our midst – and what should we do but praise you?
He comes humbly to us, bearing our sins and bringing peace to our troubled souls. And so, now the flood cannot overwhelm us; now we are released from the prison in which we had been trapped for so long. Now, O LORD, your will is accomplished and all are called into your holy light.
O let us be baptized with Him and so become as your beloved sons! Let us, too, hear your voice speaking your blessing over us. Fulfill all righteousness among us this day, let your work be accomplished among men – let us be known as your children. O LORD, let us be acceptable to you!
Glory to you, O God of all glory! May we be pleasing to you as is your Son. Let your surpassing justice be done.
Fri, 10 January 2020
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.3:22-30)
“The Son of God has come and has given us discernment
to recognize the One who is true.”
John’s disciples had difficulty recognizing “the One who is true.” They saw everyone “flocking to Him” and away from their master, so they came to their master questioning. But John was forthright: “I am not the Messiah,” he said, “I am sent before Him.” And now that He has come, the Baptist’s joy is complete.
Brothers and sisters, “we know that we belong to God, while the whole world is under the evil one.” “We are in the One who is true.” Jesus has brought us to such knowledge. And this knowledge, this reality of the eternal life of God, should make us rejoice with our psalmist. It should make our lives ones of thanksgiving in which we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “with timbrel and harp.” For, yes, “the Lord loves His people” and we are His faithful who “exult in glory.” Let us “be glad in [our] maker.”
The world is under sin, and there is deadly sin which destroys the soul lurking in the world. The devil is real as well, and will not simply go away. And though only God can cast him away ultimately, we can pray against much of his work in this world, “petition[ing] God,” interceding for our brothers who falter in sin that is not deadly… and finding their release through the grace of God. With this “confidence in God: that He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will,” we have a great gift and a great strength in this dark world – we can bring light to it, the light of the only Son. But we must always be as “the body” He adorns “with victory.” We must have the same attitude as the Lord’s “best man,” and say with the Baptist, “He must increase while I must decrease.” We must find our joy in Him and not in our works or in our pride. He is all and He is true, and He leads us to the kingdom in His baptism in water and the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, we must see the grace we have in our midst. Jesus is ours.
O LORD, let us remain in you
and rejoice at the coming of your Son.
YHWH, in Baptism we are begotten by you and protected from all sin and selfishness. Let what you have begun in us become complete – let all sin be taken from us that we might rejoice forever in your presence.
O LORD, let our joy be complete. Now that your Son has come and drawn us into His flesh and blood, now that He has cleansed us from our sins and made us whole again, let us decrease as He increases within us, until He is all in all in us… until we exult in the glory of your kingdom.
O LORD, let all your children praise your holy NAME and sing of the grace upon all the lowly ones of God. O true God, let us be your own, born again in your Son, in the Spirit upon Him. And we shall be ready even to die with Him that we might find new life in Him with all our brothers and sisters.
Save us from sin, dear LORD, and let us live in your glory.
Thu, 9 January 2020
(1Jn.5:5-13; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.5:12-16)
“Whoever possesses the Son possesses life.”
What does our psalmist mean when he sings: “He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat He fills you,” but that we are in Christ? What are those “borders” but the flesh of Christ? What is this wheat but the manna, the Sacrament of His Body He gives us to feed upon during our earthly journey? And this word which “runs swiftly,” what is it but the Spirit which enlivens the Body of Christ, which brings the flesh of Christ to life? And why should we not “glorify the Lord,” the God of life, who provides His Son and His Spirit, who makes the world and all that is in it, who calls us to believe, as the human beings we are, in the name of the Son, that we might find all three who testify to truth and “are of one accord”?
It is through the Son we come to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God the Father, we believe “the testimony He has given on His own Son’s behalf,” and we find the eternal life that is thus ours through the Son. May the Spirit run quickly to us and teach us and guide us along the way of God.
In our gospel Jesus heals a leper. He reaches out His hand “to touch him” and so draws him into Himself, into the borders of His holy flesh, and he is made whole. He wills it so, that the bars of all our gates be strengthened, that all enter into Him – that we be healed, whole in Him, and that our children, the fruit of our own bodies be blessed by their truly being begotten therefore of Him. If we are in Him, so will our children be, so will all the works we perform. But we must come as the leper, “bowed down to the ground.” We, too, must see Jesus and be moved to humble ourselves before His loving glory. In faith we, too, must desire His touch upon our flesh, to be released from all sin, to be made whole again. And we must do as He instructs us through the power of the Spirit; then we shall find life with the Father in heaven.
If it is remarkable that the Son of God would draw the leprous man into His sacred flesh and make him His own, it is perhaps more remarkable that He would do the same for us poor sinners – that being possessed by Him, we possess Him, and so we enter life by the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, let all men know
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth and the touch of your hand, we are healed of all our ills; your Son has come to save us. He is all we need to find eternal life – let Him live within us.
You testify, O LORD, by the word of the Spirit that Jesus is your beloved Son and we should believe in Him. Your testimony let us embrace in faith that the life you desire for us we may know.
Your Word of truth runs swiftly, LORD, and brings peace to our gates and borders. Our very flesh is anointed in your Son – in Him your Spirit is upon us. And we are blessed as your children; we are made whole in your sight. Let your Word run to all the world, that all might know of the glory you bring us in Jesus your only Son, in the water upon Him and in His sacrificial blood. In faith let all bow down before Him, seeking a word from His mouth and the touch of His hand.
Wed, 8 January 2020
(1Jn.4:19-5:4; Ps.72:1-2,11,14-15,17; Lk.4:14-22)
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today the Son has come into our midst. Today He has “unrolled the scroll” of the Word of God and read aloud the words written of Him for all to hear. Today the WORD is brought to life. As “appealing” as is the discourse which flows forth from His gracious lips, so much greater is the Spirit that is upon Him. For by that Spirit and in His sacred flesh He shall “bring glad tidings to the poor… proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.” In word and deed He “announce[s] a year of favor from the Lord.” In Him all time comes together. In Him it is all one moment. And this moment reveals the love of God.
And by the Son we are begotten, by His love: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.” And so, children we become with the one Child most blessed. And if we are all one child born of the love of God and His Word, what can we do but love one another? Does one not love his own flesh and bone? And so, “whoever loves God must also love his brother,” for his brother is of him as he is of God and both are His children in love, born of the flesh of the one Christ.
“In Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” It is not for the few He has come, but for all. For God is the Father of all and the Son possesses and reveals all that is of the Father. “All nations shall proclaim His happiness,” for all peoples shall find their happiness in Him alone, who is love and which love is itself our happiness and our hope.
Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Work through us, dear God. Let your Commandment of love be fulfilled in us. Let our love be fixed on God and let us love our brother. May we hear the words you speak in our midst today. May your Spirit make us children of the Father.
O LORD, Jesus is the Christ;
your Spirit is upon Him and He has come to save us –
let us declare His praise.
YHWH, your Word is fulfilled in Jesus and in the Spirit upon Him. Glad tidings the poor hear from His blessed lips, and we who are blind may now see your glorious presence in our midst. From our prisons let us be released, that we might love as Jesus loves.
If we remain in your Son, we will be able to keep your commands and so be blessed forever. You will give us power to conquer the world, to conquer the world even as He has done. O LORD, in Him may our lives be governed with justice, that our mouths might bless you all our days.
O LORD, if we keep our eyes and ears and hearts fixed on Jesus, we will know your love and be able to share in that love. Truly we will love you and our brother, and every blessing will be ours by the grace upon your Son. Your Name be praised by the tongues of men for all the goodness He brings us
Tue, 7 January 2020
(1Jn.4:11-18; Ps.72:1-2,10,12-13; Mk.6:45-52)
“If we love one another, God dwells in us,
and His love is brought to perfection in us.”
Jesus has just fed the five thousand men with the five loaves and two fish. He has performed a great miracle before the eyes of His disciples and through their hands. Yet “their minds were completely closed to the meaning of the events,” and when He comes walking toward them on the water in the middle of the night as their boat is tossed about by a storm, they are “terrified.” They are afraid because they are not yet perfect. John tells us in his first letter, a letter of love: “Love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid” and “perfect love casts out all fear.” The disciples will not be perfect, will remain afraid, until after the death and resurrection of the Lord, and, really, until Pentecost, when the Spirit falls upon them. As John states, “The way we know we remain in Him and He in us is that He has given us of His Spirit.”
His Spirit is the Spirit of love and He, our Lord Jesus, is Himself love. John follows both the clauses, “If we love one another” and “When anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,” with the statement that God dwells in us. Jesus and love are equated as the Spirit and love are equated above. Why? Because “God is love” and both Jesus and the Spirit are God, and so are love.
Brothers and sisters, our love must be brought to perfection, and it is “brought to perfection in this: that we should have confidence on the day of judgment” – that we should have no fear of the punishment we deserve, that we know fully of His love. Jesus takes a step to preparing the disciples against the judgment, against fear and for love, by walking toward them on the water. He means to teach them that they should not be afraid of the wind and the waves which rock our boat in this world, nor should they be afraid of His miraculous, overwhelmingly loving presence. Let us learn what Jesus would teach the disciples: “Do not be afraid!” “For He shall rescue the poor man when he cries out.” He is love and He will save us. Let our minds open to His presence as we love one another, and let that love be brought to absolute perfection in us. May His Spirit be with you.
O LORD, your Son has come among us as a Man –
how can we recognize His glory in our midst;
how can we love as He has loved?
YHWH, why should we be afraid of your love, of your glory among us? Why would we rather remain in darkness than come into your light? Why can we not believe that your Son has walked among us and that He invites us to become one with you? How can our hearts bear such blessing?
O LORD, cast all the fear from us; let us not shrink from your presence, from your overwhelming love, but welcome it in our hearts with gratitude and a return of love to you and others. Let it be our desire to be saved and so glorify Jesus’ coming into our midst. Let Him enter our boat this day, and with Him let us remain.
Dwell within us, O LORD God. Dwell within us and rule over us with your justice and love. Hear us as we cry out to you; have pity on our afflicted souls. Speak to us: “Do not be afraid!” and open our eyes to your eternal protection.
Mon, 6 January 2020
O redeemer of captive slaves,
those enslaved to sin
and those enslaved
by the clutches of the world –
preach to us this day
the freedom found
under the Cross of Christ
and in the repentance of heart
blessed by the grace
upon the Church.
Teach us well
the path to Heaven,
which is wrought not in comfort and peace
but in struggle against sin,
in the laying down of our lives
before our persecutors.
Ransom us from wayward
thoughts and actions,
and from the snares
of the adversary
who waits for our misstep.
In Christ alone
may we find our rest.
Mon, 6 January 2020
(1Jn.4:7-10, Ps.72:1-4,7-8,11; Mk.6:34-44)
“Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace,
till the moon be no more.”
Our psalm (of Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom) relates the infinite justice of God, He who “defend[s] the afflicted among the people” and “save[s] the children of the poor.” Such is the judgment of our God, who “rule[s] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth”: His perfect justice He showers upon all.
And how is this justice effected? It is already evident from what we have said, from what our psalmist has sung of His Name, and our letter from John leaves no question – “God is love.” His ultimate justice and love have been “revealed in our midst in this way: He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him.” In sending Jesus “as an offering for our sins,” His perfect love and perfect justice meet and kiss and become one. He bleeds for us, and so our sins are forgiven.
And what clearer proof that we all “have life through Him” is shown in our gospel, in which Jesus feeds the masses. First He teaches them with the Word “at great length.” Having pity on them, He feeds their souls with Truth. But His pity does not end there – His concern extends to the physical as well as the spiritual… for He knows all our weakness, and He feeds the peoples’ bodies as well as their souls.
What a beautiful picture this is: the people “neatly arranged like flower beds,” Jesus raising the bread to heaven and pronouncing the blessing, the disciples distributing it, and Jesus Himself dividing the fish among them. All eat and all are satisfied. Here is a picture of the Lord’s justice and love. And this scene we enact each day at Mass, listening to His Word, His teaching, and then eating the bread of life He distributes among us. May the Lord be praised!
And what have we to do to receive this bread of life but heed the words John offers and “love one another.” For “love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.” And this knowledge we find in our love is that His justice is true and endures forever in the perfect peace His presence brings. Let us have faith forever.
O LORD, you sent your Son
to shepherd all afflicted and fainting souls;
may we be nourished by His love.
YHWH, you send your Son to rule over us with His love, to feed us with His own Body and Blood. May justice flower in His day and all the ends of the earth be blessed with His peace. And let us love as He has loved; let us lay down our lives for one another.
O LORD, upon your holy mountain let us take our rest, our souls arranged like flower beds, our hearts yielding to your Word. May your rule be made complete even in this deserted place where men are as sheep without a shepherd. To this place let your Son come and make it as your eternal home. Give us something to eat this day, LORD, by the hand of Jesus and His apostles, or we shall faint for weariness, or we shall starve to death.
It is only your love which sustains us, LORD, only our being joined to you. May we eat our fill of your goodness, and never be apart from your reign.
Sun, 5 January 2020
O friend of the lowly,
humble child of St. Joseph,
servant of the poor
and counsel to the afflicted
through whom the Lord worked miracles…
how He blessed your ignorance
with His wisdom,
your weakness with His strength;
to this passing world,
you drew souls
to the world to come –
pray we be as poor and lowly
as the dust you swept each day,
as the Child Jesus
in the manger at Bethlehem.
Pray we, too, have ears
to hear and answer
the needs of others
and that good St. Joseph
will hold us in his arms
and carry us with you
Sun, 5 January 2020
(1Jn.3:22-4:6; Ps.2:7-8,10-11; Mt.4:12-17,23-25)
“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh
belongs to God.”
And for every spirit that acknowledges Him, He answers all prayers: “Whatever we ask we shall receive at God’s hands.” “Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance…” And so, when “they carried to [Jesus] all those afflicted with various diseases and racked with pain,” He heard this prayer made in faith, made in the belief that He could do this, and as Matthew so simply and wonderfully states, “He cured them all.” They had listened to His preaching: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They accepted it, humbly, taking no offense at His words and His actions – but believing in Him. And so He could perform such wonders for them, He whose spirit is true; and so “on those who inhabit a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
And now we should “give heed” and “take warning”; now we should “put the spirits to the test to see if they belong to God.” Now we must clearly acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and know what John tells us, “There is in you One greater than there is in the world,” and follow that Spirit within us. Are we “keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight”? Do we “remain in Him”? He is never far away and He will hear all of our prayers and cure us of all ills, if we but believe in Him, if we but heed His teaching – if we reform our lives. We show our belief in Him when we follow His commandments, and we follow His commandments when we reform our lives. Thus we prove that we speak His language; in our love we reveal His Spirit in us.
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you.’” Even in our psalm are spoken the words of the Father to Jesus; and they are spoken to us, if we believe that He is the Christ. This is the salvation the Father offers; it is for us to accept it and live it. For a greater gift we cannot expect, more love He could not show – this is His Son, this is God… believe in Him. There is nothing else you need seek.
O LORD, all those who seek the truth
come to your Son,
and you make them your children.
YHWH, we shall be healed of every ill; all darkness will be banished from our midst, if we turn from our sins, if we seek to reform our lives – if we believe in the Name of your Son, that He has come in the flesh and is our Savior. And then our every prayer shall be answered, for we shall be living in your love.
It is not of the world we are to be, O LORD, not of the darkness of this place. For the world does not recognize that Jesus has come, nor has it ears to hear Him. But our ears are attuned to His voice and the truth He speaks to our heart. Let us not be deceived by those who would deny the truth, those who would speak against what is plainly before them. Let us hold fast to the teaching of your Son and His apostles, and we shall have power to overcome all such evil by His love.
Give us all we ask of you, LORD; give us a world remade in your image.
Sat, 4 January 2020
O shepherd who walked
in the humble stead
of your flock,
who worked so diligently
among those in your care,
speaking to their hearts;
you who gathered into schools
the little ones,
who saw to the education
of the children…
and all this in a foreign land –
pray for the country in which you ministered,
that its lambs
once again be raised
in the faith
and its strangers
be once again shepherded
by one as anxious as you
for their well-being.
Here let us find the grace of Christ
and the lost.
Sat, 4 January 2020
(Is.60:1-6; Ps.72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Eph.3:2-3a,5-6; Mt.2:1-12)
“They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary His Mother.”
And so our prophecy of Isaiah and our psalm of David come to pass: “Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you… the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.” And “the kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him.” And so we have the revelation made known to the Apostle Paul and all His holy ones: “The Gentiles are now coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Yes, the Light of Jerusalem has come, and it draws the ends of the earth by its radiance. Here is the star which rises in our midst; here is the true light which shines upon all men. And all men are drawn to it – none can deny its brightness before us, its truth and its glory. And who is this king but the One of “justice” and “profound peace”? Who is He but the One who “shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor He shall save.” And so all must make themselves poor before Him, laying their gifts at His blessed feet.
Today we celebrate the coming of Light to the nations, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to this world covered in darkness. And we find our hope and our joy in Him as did the magi two thousand years ago. For He continues to reveal Himself to our hearts. He continues to show His peace and justice to all who look for His coming. Let our eyes be raised to the heavens and our hearts be diligent in seeking Him, and we will be led to His crib. There the Mother holds Him in her arms; there before such beauty we should empty our souls in adoration of His blessed presence, like these magi who “prostrated themselves and did Him homage.” Then we shall rise fulfilled.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, lead us by your light
to lay down our lives before you.
YHWH, into this world of darkness you have sent a great light and now all nations desirous of truth, desirous of light, follow that light to find you, dear Father in Heaven. As the magi followed the star to find the Baby Jesus with Mary His Mother, so all poor souls follow your Son to find you who have created us all; for He is in you, and looking upon His innocent face we see you, our LORD and God, and the light is ours.
There is no division in your House, O LORD; all souls are called into your presence. Your star you make obvious for all to see that none may be left by the wayside but all keep to the road that leads to life. Help us, O LORD, to empty ourselves of all that keeps us from gazing at your light, all that makes our eyes blind to your glory. May we with the magi prostrate ourselves before your Child, offering all we have to Him and so to you. He is the King that shall rule us all – let us embrace His coming.
Fri, 3 January 2020
O mother through marriage
and religious Mother,
who indeed became mother of many,
many sisters whom you led
in the faith
and many children whom you taught
in your schools –
in your wisdom
teach many still
the path of Christ,
the way of charity He has trod,
that renewed will those be
who call you Mother,
and instructed well
those in their classrooms
throughout the land.
What should we teach our children,
Have we not forgotten the lesson of Christ?
Pray for us, I beg,
that the way and the truth
we shall follow.
Fri, 3 January 2020
(1Jn.3:7-10; Ps.98:1,3,7-9; Jn.1:35-42)
“When Jesus turned around and noticed them following Him,
He asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’”
Brothers and sisters, what Jesus asks the first two disciples He asks each of us who follow in their wake. What do we seek? Why are we following Him? What is it we hope to find at the place where He stays?
David makes clear in our psalm that the Son of God, “His holy arm,” has been revealed in our midst – in “wondrous deeds” He “comes to rule the earth.” “The world and those who dwell in it” should resound with joy. Him whom John the Baptist points out in no uncertainty is with us now. There is no other whom we should follow. And so we do. And so we come to Him each day, to receive our daily bread. Seeing where He lodges, we come to stay with Him.
But what does the Lord see when He looks upon us? Does He stay with us? When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, He “looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (which is rendered Peter).’” Jesus upon looking at Peter sees the Rock on which He will build His Church. Peter’s holiness, the strength he has in God and for God, is evident to the Lord. Jesus knows what Peter seeks, and both have found what they are looking for. Is it upon our hearts as well to find the holiness of heaven, to become one with the Son of God?
“The man who acts in holiness is holy indeed, even as the Son is holy,” but “the man who sins belongs to the devil.” Holiness or sin? Jesus or the devil? The choice is clear, and must be evident in our lives. “No one begotten of God acts sinfully” and “no one whose actions are unholy belongs to God.” The first letter of John, our first reading, could not more simply state our call in the Lord: to be holy, not to sin… to love our brothers and sisters well – to be as Jesus, the Son most holy.
Jesus will turn and see us; His eyes are upon us now. What does He see as He looks upon your heart? What is your answer to His question, “What are you looking for?” Let His dwelling be all you seek.
O LORD, let us follow your Son to where He lives,
in holiness with you.
YHWH, let us stay with you and with your Son. May He turn and look upon us with kindness, with pity for our frail condition. O let this Lamb take our sins from us that we might no longer be in the grip of the devil but come to eternal life in your House!
The Messiah you have sent is in our midst this day; let us come to the altar to receive Him, to receive His holy sacrifice and become one with Him. Only thus shall we be made holy; only with Him will we find true justice and so rejoice in your presence, O LORD. O let us be ruled by Him!
Make us your children, dear LORD. Make us as your only Son. May Jesus be with us this day and we with Him that we might become holy indeed. Never let us act sinfully but ever love as you love, as your Son loves us. Let us seek your love alone and so be founded upon true Rock, in your House.
Thu, 2 January 2020
(1Jn.2:29-3:6; Ps.98:1,3-6; Jn.1:29-34)
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“This is God’s chosen One.” This is He upon whom “the Spirit descend[s]” – who takes away our sins and makes us pure by His own baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” He who walks with Him walks in holiness, for “everyone who acts in holiness has been begotten by Him” – we have become “children of God” because we have now the grace of the only Son.
Listen to the manner in which the Baptist “sing[s] joyfully before the King, the Lord” in our gospel today: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky, and it came to rest on Him.” How like music, like “the harp and melodious song,” is his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. His exclamation of Jesus as the holy Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice pure and undefiled, resounds to the ends of the earth more eloquently and with greater power than “the trumpets and the sound of the horn” of which David sings in our psalm. Here is the voice proclaiming the Truth, the message our ears have so longed to hear.
“The very reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel,” and “the reason [Jesus] revealed Himself was to take away sins” – all this for our salvation. Yes, brothers and sisters, “in Him there is nothing sinful.” And we must be like Him. Insofar as we sin, we have “not seen Him or known Him.” Insofar as a man “keeps himself pure, as He is pure,” he is His child, knowing Him most intimately, and may exclaim in wonder with John the evangelist: “What love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!”
All sin and struggle with sin all the while they are on earth. There are many times when we must admit that we do not see Him or know Him in order for Him to be revealed in our lives, in order for us to find His blessed purity. We must confess our sins that we might sing His praise. But all the while the Son is with us, the Lamb intercedes to remove our sins. And always we must look to Him whom the Baptist proclaimed to be “what we are,” to become “like Him” when His light comes to its fullness and His Spirit is all we know.
O LORD, your saving power, your Lamb,
has come to take away the sin of the world –
may all nations rejoice in such blessing.
YHWH, Jesus is your Chosen One, your only Son, the pure reflection of your Being… and we must be like Him. We must be pure as He is pure, as you are pure, as the Spirit that comes from Him and descends upon us is pure. O let us truly be pure! Let us truly be your children.
O LORD, Jesus has come to take away all sin from us. This is the mission, the work He has from you. It is for John to declare the coming of the Lamb of God, and it is for this Lamb to die for our sins. Let all be accomplished in your will. As John has made the Christ known and He has been crucified for our sakes, so let us find the purification from sin you desire for us that we might be united to you.
All the earth has seen your saving power, O LORD. Let all souls recognize that power in our midst and remain in Him who brings it.
Wed, 1 January 2020
O bishops and doctors,
O brothers so united in Christ,
united in your desire
to find His wisdom
and live His virtue,
for you what mattered
but to be like Christ?
All you would have given up
to find His way;
nothing of this world
did you wish
but to leave it behind.
One in heart and mind,
one in word and work
and in the food of which you partook…
how blessed it is
when men live as brothers,
when nothing they desire
but the other’s good –
teach us this way of union
in the love of God.
Wed, 1 January 2020
(1Jn.2:22-28; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.1:19-28)
“Remain in the Son and in the Father.”
In our gospel John the Baptist tells the priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees, “There is… one who is to come after me – the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.” This Messiah has come, “The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice,” David proclaims in our psalm, and continues to invite us to sing praise of Him. It is the anointing that comes from Jesus that John, in our first reading, encourages us to hold on to, for it is true and leads invariably to the Father of all.
We must come to the Father; we must find ourselves in the presence of all truth, in the hands of our Creator, who loves us beyond all telling. And the way to the presence of the Father, in whom we find our true home, is Jesus the Christ. He is the Son and the only one who can lead us to the Father, for He and the Father are inextricably one. We cannot deny the Sonship of Jesus, His oneness with the Father – that He is the Christ, upon whom all true anointing rests – and come to know God. Jesus is the means the Father provides to come to Him; it is through Him alone we find the promise of eternal life. We must “remain in Him,” that we may “not retreat in shame at His coming.”
Those who do not believe in Jesus, who do not recognize Him as the only Son and so only way to the Father, are not to be persecuted – but they are not to be believed. Jesus is all. Those who know Him know this; they indeed have His anointing in their hearts. This “anointing teaches [us] about all things and is true.” It is this knowledge of His salvation, of His glory, which John instructs us to remember: His Word grows in our hearts. But again, this Word is not a weapon for the persecution and destruction of others – it is the means for the manifestation of light.
Remain in Jesus, brothers and sisters, and eternal life with the Father will be assured you.
O LORD, help us always
to proclaim Jesus as the Christ.
YHWH, we must indeed acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, as your only Son, as God Himself, and rejoice that your saving power has come to us through Him. And His anointing will rest upon us, the Holy Spirit will be with us to guide us in all things – we will be one with you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John has prepared His way and in the sight of the nations His glory has been revealed. None can deny His divinity, except he be a liar. And to these we must not listen, LORD, but only to the teaching of your Church. For upon your apostles rests the anointing that is from above, and if we are to find our way to eternal life, no other voice should we heed.
John has indeed cried out the way we all must follow if we are to meet your Son and so you, Father. O LORD, let us listen to the Spirit that is upon him.