Sun, 28 February 2021
(Dn.9:4-10; Ps.79:8-9,11,13,103:10; Lk.6:36-38)
“Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.”
It is a cry for forgiveness our psalmist makes to our compassionate God. “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past,” he begs, seeking release from sin’s prison for himself and his people. And Daniel does the same; acknowledging with full throat the sins of Judah and all Israel, he seeks the merciful hand of the Lord upon the people, interceding in their stead. Though he himself is an upright man, he cries out, “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil,” praying thus for the rebellious nation which has been scattered to “all countries” for their failure to heed the command of the Lord.
Well do our Old Testament figures embody Jesus’ teaching in our gospel, summed up simply: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” For they “do not judge” or “condemn” those individuals primarily responsible for the apostasy and so the destruction of the kingdom and the covenant, but rather seek earnestly to heal the rift that has come by giving generously of themselves and their love for God and others, in Christlike fashion standing in the breach. And so they earn the titles of prophet and psalmist of God; and so they foreshadow the heavenly compassion Jesus calls all His followers to pour forth in His name. (And so we can be assured their compassion has been “measured back” to them by the Lord.)
Jesus on the cross dies for the sins of all people, and this is His central call to all our souls: to imitate Him is our blessed goal. For insofar as we die for God and others, insofar as we lay down our lives in His truth, thus far we shall find His “compassion quickly come to us” and so live in the heavenly glory which is now His place. To us all He calls this day to pardon and forgive, for in doing so we shall find the reconciliation of the Lord even with our enemies, and secure for ourselves a room in His heavenly home.
He who knew no sin was made sin for our sake. He has humbled Himself to carry the sins of the nation… Let us, brothers and sisters, die with Christ on the cross, that all sin might be taken away in His Name.
O LORD, let us not turn away
from your Word to our souls
but be compassionate as you.
YHWH, you are a compassionate God calling us to your mercy and love. Forgive us all our transgressions against you that we might know your favor. Though we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, though we have rebelled against you and your command, refusing to listen to the Word of truth you utter in our midst, hear our cry for deliverance from the prison into which our sins have cast us. Save us in your love!
O LORD, if we do not judge we shall not be judged. If we do not condemn we shall not be condemned. If we but forgive others their transgressions against us, you will forgive our transgressions against you. And we shall return to your pasture.
Help us to give, O LORD, to give as you give, to give as your Son gives… to lay down our lives for the sake of others – to seek pardon for their sins. Jesus stands in the breach to reconcile us to you and one another; may we join Him in His mission of love.
Sat, 27 February 2021
(Gn.22:1-2,9-13,15-18; Ps.116:10,15-19; Rom.8:31-34; Mk.9:2-10)
“You shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,” the Lord instructs Abraham, calling him to sacrifice even as an animal his beloved child, upon whom God’s promise rests. To a mountain he is led, with his son carrying wood in tow.
And arriving at the place God had told him to go, “Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it… and took the knife to slaughter his son.” The angel comes to stay his hand, but Abraham is prepared to do as the Lord commands.
The Lord prevents Abraham from making this sacrifice because it is not his son who is to die; only the Lord’s Beloved could be offered as such a holocaust; only His Son is called upon to die. “Christ Jesus it is who died,” no one else, for only His death brings life.
And on Mount Tabor today we see the life that will come by the Lord’s sacrifice; already we glimpse the rays of heaven. Jesus is as engulfed in flames, holy fire of the most blessed holocaust; and – like the three young men in the furnace, like the bush before Moses on Mt. Horeb – by these flames He is not burned: by these flames His purity is made to shine.
How good indeed it is for these apostles to behold this blessed vision! In it we all find hope that the death of Christ is not for naught, and neither shall our own death be. For all who die in Christ, die as Christ, a death that brings only eternal life. And so, comprehending here the majesty to which we are called, all disciples of Jesus, all children of the God of Life, are strengthened for all trial.
God “did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all,” not because He loved Him not, but because He loves us all. And now “will He not also give us everything along with Him?” Will He now seek to condemn those whom He has justified at such a massive cost?
“It is God who acquits us,” brothers and sisters, by the death of His Son. And now “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of [all] His faithful ones”; do not be afraid to serve the Lord. For by your sacrifice, to a great height He will draw you, even as He has His Son, who “is at the right hand of God” this day. With Abraham, He “will bless you abundantly.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "White" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we join your Son in obedience
even unto death,
we shall be raised with Him.
YHWH, your Son has died to raise us all to new life; only His death could bear such fruit. And should we not therefore put faith in Him, Him whom you have declared your Beloved? Should we not thus come to a great love of you who have loved us so greatly? And would we not then come to glory, the same glory He shares with you this day?
A sign you give to us this day, dear LORD, a sign of your eternal glory, a glory that comes to us by the death of Jesus the Christ. And so, we should not be afraid of the death we must die, of the offering we must make of our lives in His Name. For as we are joined to Him in sacrifice, so will we be joined to Him in your heavenly kingdom.
O LORD, bring many souls, souls as countless as the stars, into the land you promise us and which you bring to fulfillment in the death of your Son. For this grace let us praise your Name forever in your House.
Fri, 26 February 2021
(Dt.26:16-19; Ps.119:1-2,4-5,7-8; Mt.5:43-48)
“You will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God.”
The promise made to the Israelites through Moses is also a command, and is fulfilled in the command of Jesus.
In our first reading Moses tells the people the Lord will raise them “high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations,” but makes it clear that this shall be so only as long as they “walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments, and decrees” – only if they “hearken to His voice.” For His law is as food to the body and light to the mind and must be observed carefully, “with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul,” to maintain the presence of God in our lives. If “He is to be [our] God,” we must do as He commands.
Thus our psalmist sings of the happiness of those “who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart.” Thus does he cry out in longing, “Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes!” for he knows in them is life. To “walk in the way of the Lord” is his joy.
And that joy is made complete, our life is made whole, by the new command of love Jesus imparts to our soul. The Lord fulfills the Law of Moses, which gave light to the people, by commanding us not to love only our “countryman” but all: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” Here is His challenge for us to “prove that [we] are sons of our heavenly Father,” to love as He loves, to know the greatness of His glory, therefore, in our very lives. If the psalmist cried out in such joy at the blessing found in following the Law of Moses, what indescribable joy is ours when we follow Jesus’ words. What greater call can we have than to “be made perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”? What greater merit and blessing could there be? None. For He is Life itself, and here we are called to live with Him.
“His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust.” Nothing dims God’s holy light or stems the blessings He showers upon all. In absolute light, in absolute love, the Father dwells, in the heavenly kingdom; and if we can love as He loves, as Jesus has loved, we shall know such blessing. Love even those who hate you and you will be as the Father, who knows only love, and you will become sacred to Him – you will be saints in His kingdom.
O LORD, if we follow your way with our whole heart,
we shall come to where you are, in Heaven.
YHWH, what can we be but blessed if we heed your commands and walk in your way, for then we will be like you, who are most blessed of all? O to be a people sacred to you! O to love as you love!
What greater blessing can we know, O LORD, than to love as you love, to love all, even our enemies? What blessing it would be to know such absolute love, to live such absolute love – then we would be living with you; then we would be living in you. You shine like the sun upon all creatures… Let us live in your light this day.
Your Word is light to us, LORD; your commands are truth. And by them you would lead us to all truth, to all love – by them you would lead us to yourself. And your greatest command is to love our enemies, a command your Son embodies. Let us join with Him in keeping this Word and so live in your heavenly presence.
Thu, 25 February 2021
(Ez.18:21-28; Ps.130:1-8; Mt.5:20-26)
“Settle with your opponent while on your way to court with him.”
We are all on our way to court, brothers and sisters. The judgment of the Lord awaits us all on the Last Day, and the Last Day is upon us here at the end of the age. There is no time to lose; we must be “reconciled with [our] brother”; we must turn from sin today and find the Lord’s grace. “With the Lord is kindness and plenteous redemption; and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities” – but “out of the depths” we must cry to Him “in supplication” to find His blessed forgiveness; and from sinful paths we must turn our feet to know His salvation.
“If a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” It is a great promise that comes to us through the prophet Ezekial, that none of our crimes shall be remembered by God when we return to Him. For the Lord does not “derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked,” He “rather rejoice[s] when he turns from his evil way that he may live”; for the Lord wishes life for us all, wishes Himself, who is Life, for every soul, and gives it freely, and quite naturally, when we follow His ways.
It is really rather simple: as when a wicked man turns to good things he is no longer wicked but good and so lives in the Lord, so “when a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” Evil brings death, and righteousness and justice (goodness) brings life. The Lord desires life for us all and so He calls us to repentance, to repentance from even what might seem to our minds the smallest of sins – for so greatly does He wish life for us. And clearly does He know that which we cannot see, that death holds sway over us by every sin on our soul.
Let us avoid the fires of hell and the pains of purgatory, brothers and sisters. Let us call out to the Lord this day and find His “plenteous redemption” even as we turn from our sins. And there shall be no prison into which we are thrown, as we forgive one another, and the Lord forgives us, our sins.
O LORD, let us be released from all bondage to sin
that we might walk with you in righteousness
and so find life.
YHWH, forgiveness is with you, for it is your great desire to see us turn from our sin that you might have mercy on our souls. And if we do so, if we leave behind our wickedness – even our wicked thoughts and words – we shall find your goodness; you shall gather us into your arms. For then we shall be of goodness itself, and so, united with you.
But turning from the right path, what can we find but death in our separation from you, LORD? What can we know but condemnation in leaving you behind? For then you will not be with us, and without you there is no life.
O LORD, you are generous in redeeming us from all our iniquities. Let us follow your way as your Son does call, purging all hatred from our lives. Help us to be perfect as you are perfect – in love, in forgiveness, in grace… and we shall thus enter your kingdom, where only perfection exists. No evil in our hearts let us desire; cast all iniquity from us this day as we love even our enemy.
Wed, 24 February 2021
(Est.C:12,14-16,23-25; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Mt.7:7-12)
“My Lord, our King, you alone are God.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.”
In our gospel we have today a few of our Lord’s most famous words: “Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” Jesus encourages us to faithfulness in prayer, assuring all that our “heavenly Father [will] give good things to anyone who asks Him.” How beautiful are His words, and how true.
And how well Queen Esther illustrates the faithful prayer of one who has “recourse to the Lord.” She comes to the Lord in all humility as an obedient child before her father and opens her heart before God with a sincere plea for her fellow Jews, threatened with extinction by the enemy. She says of her forefathers, proclaiming herself a daughter of Abraham, “You fulfilled all your promises to them,” and comes now seeking the same answer from the “King of gods and Ruler of every power.” Such prayer for salvation before the God she recognizes “know[s] all things” cannot but be answered by the loving Father. He will give her the food she desires.
In our psalm we hear David’s song of thanksgiving for the prayers the Lord has been faithful in answering for him: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth,” thus proving the truth of Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples, and indicating that Esther will also find answer to her prayer – and so, that we all should have assurance of God’s loving desire to heed all our sincere pleas. David, too, acknowledges the greatness of God: “You have made great above all things your name and your promise,” and so comes to the place where the “kindness and [the] truth” of the Lord will be known to him. And his faith in the Lord’s promise to be with him and hear him lasts for perpetuity: “The Lord will complete what He has done for me.”
Praise the Lord, who answers all prayers. Praise the loving God who knows all things. It is in His heart to feed us with the best of wheat, and this He does each day for those who “worship at [His] holy temple and give thanks to [His] name.” “Forsake not the work of your hands,” dear Lord. Be with us always to hear our humble prayers, that we might witness always your loving faithfulness to all who call upon you in truth.
O LORD, forsake us not, for we are your children
and have no one but you to help us;
thank you for your mercy.
YHWH, you readily give good things to those who ask them of you, for it is your will to give what is good to all. You are goodness itself and would share yourself with all your children if they but desired your presence in their lives. Let us turn to you and call upon your Name with faith that you hear all our prayers.
We need but seek you, LORD, and your hand at work in our days. We need but a tiny seed of faith, and you will nourish us with your Word and see that we are protected from our enemies and have all we need to live forever with you. In your kingdom we shall find our home if we but knock upon its door.
Your Name let us ever praise, O LORD our God, and we shall remain in your truth, and we shall remain in your light, ever growing unto your heavenly presence. We would need fear nothing at all if we but trusted in you and the love you hold for all your people. Your kindness be upon us this day as we raise our hearts to you.
Tue, 23 February 2021
(Jon.3:1-10; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,18-19; Lk.11:29-32)
“At the preaching of Jonah they reformed.”
Let us learn from the people of Ninevah, who heeded the message of repentance given Jonah. At Jonah’s cry they “believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” Even the king “laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes” in hopes of averting the destruction he knew God held in hand for his wayward city. He decrees that “every man shall turn from his evil way” and “call loudly to God.” Such utter repentance! Such turning from sin! And this from a pagan king and a pagan nation.
If Ninevah has so believed in God, if it has so recognized its sin before Him and turned so dramatically back to Him, pleading for His mercy, what should we not do, brothers and sisters, in this time of Lent set aside for the cleansing of our sins, we who have Jesus’ preaching now ringing in our ears and calling to our hearts? Indeed, we must again and continually cry out to God with David for His mercy to come upon us. Ever with “a contrite and humbled heart” we must sit before Him recognizing our sin. For always our sin is with us, however much we might be ignorant of our guilt as we live our lives in vain. “Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me,” must be our eternal plea, for we are in continual danger of going away from Him.
Let us not be afraid to humble ourselves before God and man. Let us seek nothing else but the wisdom of Christ, the call of the cross to our souls. In humility, in sackcloth and ashes, let us prostrate ourselves before the true king who will come at the judgment to discern the worth of all souls. Perhaps He will have mercy. Perhaps He will “withhold His blazing wrath.” Perhaps the punishment we deserve He may avert and “we shall not perish.” Upon the soul He finds His cross inscribed, He shall take pity, my friends.
O Lord, we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight. In your infinite mercy look upon our broken hearts, and help us to reform our lives. For you alone are God.
O LORD, your Son is greater than any prophet or king;
let us listen to Him as He calls us to repentance.
YHWH, let us be humble before you and your Word. Let us repent at the preaching of your holy ones. May your Son be a sign for us that we shall not forget – you are calling us to your kingdom, and to find our way there we must turn away from all sin.
O LORD, let us not fail to take this time to reform our lives; let us not be deaf and blind to the grace you offer forth to all men. May we know true contrition for the wrongs we have done – O let our hearts be circumcised! You desire to forgive us, if we would but leave off our evil ways.
We shall all indeed be destroyed if we do not heed your saving Word. May your prophets cry out the message of the Gospel, and may all your holy ones cover themselves in sackcloth and sit in the ashes… may all fast from the poisonous food this world offers. Then our spirits shall be renewed. Then no judgment will come upon us. Then we shall live forever with you.
Mon, 22 February 2021
O disciple of John
and shepherd who drank deeply
of the cup of Christ’s suffering,
you who bore both
the burden of a long life
and the pain of a violent death
yet remained faithful
till the end –
pray that the fire into which we are cast
we may also endure
as the sacrifice of Jesus
and so find it fruitful,
and so find it blessed…
and so rejoice in the witness
we are granted to give
in the name of our Savior.
May the offering of our lives
join with your own and all the saints’
in rising as holy incense
to the throne of God
and serve as witness,
to the eyes that behold us,
of the Lord’s great power and love.
Mon, 22 February 2021
(Is.55:10-11; Ps.34:4-7,16-19; Mt.6:7-15)
“Give us today our daily bread.”
Our daily bread comes from the mouth of God; it is His Word that nourishes us. His Word “water[s] the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats.” By His Word our spiritual lives are anointed with holiness; the breath of His mouth makes us whole, and so we become fruitful in His Name.
Yes, we are sharers in His Word; it is His Word the just speak in their time of need. “Crushed in spirit” before Him like holy seed, their cry comes to His ears and the rain He sends upon them saves them from all sin, “deliver[s] [them] from all fears.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, is true, and His words are true: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”; and so the Father is quick to hear when we enter into His Word and call upon His Name in all humility. It is this humility which makes us fertile earth, this trust in His will that lifts our faces toward His light, that we “may not blush with shame.” “Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy,” O sinner. “Glorify the Lord” and “extol His name,” for with you He shares His Spirit; in you He plants the Word that grows to eternal life.
Father in heaven, you alone are holy, and your Name is life to us. Let “your kingdom come,” let “your will be done,” for apart from you we wither and die. Make our earth your heaven; bring to us all the blessings you know we need to live ever in your light. Feed us with your bread, feed us with your Word – your Son is all the food we need. And for all “the wrong we have done,” as He has taught us, let us find our forgiveness by releasing from all bondage those who have done wrong to us, by loving our enemies. In the end we pray, O Lord, that temptation be taken from our path; though we treasure your chastising Hand, let us not falter anymore – “deliver us from the evil one” who lurks in this world seeking the ruin of our souls.
O Lord, our lives are in your hands. Our hearts are given life by you. In our prayer let us not imitate the vain words of the pagans, but let us join in the Spirit with your Son and become one in the Word with you. (Help me to remember your Name.)
(I witness here that however many times I speak the Lord’s Prayer, as however many times I attend Holy Mass, by the grace that comes through the Spirit, it is ever new and alive with the blessings that come from above. These words are a gift to us we must cherish in our souls.)
O LORD, may the grace of your forgiveness
flow upon us and through us
and so bear the fruit of salvation.
YHWH, your Word be upon us to bless us and nourish us this day that our words might be fruitful as your own. With your Son and by the words He has instructed us to pray, let us come to you and find your presence upon us, saving us from sin and leading us to your kingdom. From the grasp of the evil one let us be released as we call upon your Name.
How shall we be fed this day, O LORD, if not by your hand, if not by the Spirit you send forth from your holy throne? From on high you shower down upon us cleansing rain that we might be made whole and fruitful in your sight, that we might be as your Son on this earth, bringing your kingdom to bear on this plane. O let us be as your sons and daughters, shining your light in this dark place!
Hear us as we call to you, LORD. Deliver us from all distress and affliction. Let our poor souls be blessed by you that we might ever praise your holy Name. O Father in Heaven, let us be with you this day.
Sun, 21 February 2021
O Rock of the Church,
leader of God’s people
to whom the Father has revealed
the divinity of His Son
and on whom the Son has therefore
built His Church,
giving you the keys to the kingdom,
the power to bind and loose
both on earth and in Heaven,
that the ship you steer
might conquer all Satan’s power
by the power of the Spirit
with which you serve your brothers,
secure in the blessed protection
and guidance of the Lord –
pray the Church you do yet lead
shall fulfill the call
the Christ has placed
upon every soul
and that we shall come to our heavenly home
in the light of the Messiah.
Pray we shall indeed be strong
and give faithful witness to our Savior.
Sun, 21 February 2021
(1Pt.5:1-4; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.16:13-19)
“On this rock I will build my Church.”
And Simon’s name is changed to “Peter”, which means “Rock”, to signify that here is the chief shepherd of the Church, upon whom the Church on earth rests. It is he to whom Jesus gives “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Though all the apostles are given the power to bind and loose, it is Peter who leads – “a fellow elder” among all the elders and yet the one who speaks for all.
It is not by man’s decision that Peter is the Rock of the Church, but by the word of the Lord Himself. Just as “no mere man ha[d] revealed” to him that Jesus is “the Messiah… the Son of the living God,” so no mere man works through him today as our Pope guides the ship that is the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is led by the Church and its teachings we are guided “in right paths.” It is as we dwell in this “house of the Lord” that we are protected from all harm. “The Lord is my shepherd,” and the Shepherd of all, and into the hands of Peter and the apostles He places care for His flock.
How well this first among equals instructs his fellow shepherds today in his letter: “God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care.” How well does Peter answer the Lord’s call to strengthen his brothers, to see that His sheep are fed. The key pitfalls of “coercion” and “shameful profit” and “lording it over those assigned” to them, he warns them clearly against, and reminds them of “the unfading crown of glory” that awaits them. It is they who must give “courage” to the flock, they who anoint heads with oil to make the cup of the Church overflow, even here on earth… and as they are faithful, they are Christ’s own special children.
To those who still doubt the primacy of Peter and its absolute necessity, I invite you to read again Scripture and notice how often and always Peter speaks for the whole and acts for the whole body as he does today. It is to all the apostles Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” and though all may have faith, only one speaks up and answers in no uncertain terms. As he does at the first council at Jerusalem, as he did in coming to the Lord on the water, Peter speaks and leads in the power of the Spirit. The Church is one in Christ, and it has one rock it is set upon.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, as long as we remain in your House
we shall be secure,
for the faith of Peter will strengthen us.
YHWH, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven you entrust to Peter; he is the Rock upon which your Church is set, the chief Shepherd leading all the rest. Though your Son alone be the cornerstone, the true foundation of this House, it is into the hands of Peter you entrust your flock by his confession of faith.
You are at his side always, ever assisting him in leading the ewes with care. It is by your Spirit he rules this House, generously giving his life in union with Jesus, our Savior. And so, in verdant pastures your sheep make their home. In your presence we are blessed to remain by your grace upon our souls, dearest LORD.
O living God, bless this day all your bishops and priests, and especially the Holy Father. You indeed bless them by revealing yourself to them and strengthening them for the work they must accomplish. With them may we all walk in the footsteps of your Son, laying down our lives for all, that we might come to eternal rest in the glory of your kingdom.
Sat, 20 February 2021
O blessed reformer of the Church
who by a holy austerity
cleansed your soul
of the corruption of this world
and served by example
to lead others to a religious life –
teach us this day
of the chastising hand of God
and the suffering which leads
that in the will of the Lord
we might all be purged
of our dross
and come to the kingdom of Heaven.
Pray that we, too, might realize
and so benefit from
the blessing upon us
when our souls are lashed
that threaten sorrow,
for He does but wish to lift us
from the sinfulness of this passing earth
to the consolation of His presence.
Sat, 20 February 2021
(Gn.9:8-15; Ps.25:4-9; 1Pt.3:18-22; Mk.1:12-15)
“I set my bow in the clouds
to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
In times past God made a covenant with Noah and his sons once they had come from the ark “that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings,” that they and those who would descend from them, indeed all races of men, should experience such devastation no more. And the sign of the rainbow He has given “for all ages to come,” that His covenant shall not be forgotten.
This promise is a reassuring one, even if not by water but by fire we know this earth shall yet be destroyed. But a greater promise than this certainly we have, one for which this covenant is but a shadow. For now we have “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.” Through His resurrection from the dead He now shines in the firmament more brightly than any rainbow, and indeed in Him all races of men meet again and find their hope, not only that they shall not be destroyed from the earth, but that they shall know everlasting salvation in heaven. Even “the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark,” have this word preached to them.
“The kingdom of God is at hand.” Yes, the salvation of the Lord has been set firmly in our hearts, even as the rainbow God set in the heavens. He has remembered His “love” and “compassion” which “are from of old” and in His “goodness” has fulfilled them in His only Son. Though Jesus has had to suffer death for our sakes, yet death is remembered no more as we gaze upon His resurrected form – as the bow after the rain, so does His glory shine after the death of this flesh. And though the flood “prefigured Baptism,” yet Baptism in the name of the Lord and into His death and resurrection is so much more, for “it is not a removal of dust from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience” with which we are blessed now.
And so, brothers and sisters, let us find the “life in the Spirit” to which our Savior, come from the desert of our sin, now leads us. Let us fix our eyes upon His resurrection glory, even as we experience the death of the body.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" (second half) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let your kindness and compassion
be fulfilled in our midst this day;
let us turn from our sins to walk with Jesus
on the way to you.
YHWH, your Son has come to suffer and die and be raised to new life that we might be led from our sinful state to union with you in Heaven. Truly, your kingdom has walked among us in the Person of Jesus; truly, your kingdom is now at hand. Like a bow in the clouds is His resurrection from the dead – let us keep our eyes fixed on Him that truly we shall enter your reign.
You are of compassion, LORD, and your love is from of old. It is this love you would share with the humble, and so you call us to follow in your ways. By repentance we shall come to you, and that we might receive this grace your Son cries out to our souls. Let us follow Him on the way of the Cross that the new day shall be ours.
Your promise of eternal life is our treasure, LORD, our hope in a fallen world. And you are faithful to your promise – in Jesus we shall never be destroyed.
Fri, 19 February 2021
(Is.58:9-14; Ps.86:1-6,11; Lk.5:27-32)
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“restorer of ruined homesteads.”
“Levi gave a great reception for Jesus in his house,” but it is Jesus who invites him, and all sinners, “to a change of heart” and to join Him in the home He makes for us all in heaven. As Levi (or Matthew) has done, so must we all: we must leave our “customs post,” that which roots us to this world – we must stand up and follow Him.
“You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” David makes his prayer in our psalm, coming to the Lord as one “afflicted and poor,” begging the Lord’s pity upon his soul. And there is confidence that his cry is answered, that his soul is gladdened; for the promise has been made through Isaiah that “He will renew [our] strength,” that we “shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” All that He has broken down in His anger against us and against our sins shall be raised up again: “The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up.” As we turn to Him and “call the sabbath a delight… not following [our] ways, seeking [our] own interests, or speaking with malice,” we shall indeed “delight in the Lord” and in His inheritance; He shall indeed “nourish [us] with the heritage of Jacob” – the food He gives us will far surpass the bread upon the table at Levi’s banquet. For it is upon His own Body we shall feed, and so find ourselves renewed in spirit and strengthened for the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord comes to invite all “sick people” to His healing grace. All who turn from their sins shall be acceptable to Him. And in His House they shall find a place, and be nourished well. “Even on the parched land” they shall find the water of life, for His grace extends to all places and all peoples. And with the bread we bestow on the hungry we ourselves shall be fed, for by this labor we shall unite with Him. “The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Let us find the mercy His words desire for us.
O LORD, help us to recognize our sin
and call upon you for healing,
that your House might be rebuilt.
YHWH, teach us to turn from our sin, from following our own ways, that we might follow your Son where He leads, that we might come to Him for healing this day. Let us come into your light and there remain.
You will renew us, LORD, if we do well, for it is your desire to share your mercy with us and make us as your own again. Though in ruins our lives stand, though all seem lost because of our sin, when we call out to you, you hear us and gladden our souls with your refreshing love.
When Jesus comes to us, O LORD – as He shall come to all to heal us of all illness – when He stands before us and invites us to follow Him, may we be as Matthew and leave all of this world behind and set our hearts on obedience to His voice. May we invite Him in to the table of our bodies and our souls that He might feed us always with His Word and with the Bread He is, and that we might thus feed others. O let us be nourished well and be as a watered garden!
Thu, 18 February 2021
(Is.58:1-9; Ps.51:3-6,18-19; Mt.9:14-15)
“Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!”
Brothers and sisters, in this day of fasting and penance, first we must “acknowledge [our] offense” as David in our psalm. We must cry out to our God: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” This is our leaven of truth. “A contrite spirit, a heart contrite and humbled” the Lord cannot resist. It is this heart the Lord answers; it is prayer of this soul He hears – to this “cry for help… He will say: Here I am!”
“When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast.” We “go in mourning” when Jesus is no longer in our midst. What does this then say of our fast? For though the Lord may be with us always in the power of the Spirit, yet He is physically taken from us now till the end of time. Our fast must therefore be a permanent condition all the while we walk this earth. And so true is this if we understand the Lord’s definition of a fast as revealed in our first reading from Isaiah: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly… sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked… and not turning your back on your own.” And what sense it makes that this be our fast now that Jesus is gone, for are we not His children here, called to carry out His mission in this world? Are not these the very things He instructs us to do in His stead for the least of His brothers who suffer now? On this earth here at the end of the age we should be engaged in fasting always.
And if we pray with a sincere heart, and if we do the will of the Lord in all things, what promise He makes to us: “Your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed… The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” All we ask shall be given us; all we seek we shall find in Him. And so, what shall our fasting be for us but pure joy, even as we become one with the Lord our God?
A blessed call is upon us now, one which makes our voices known to Him. Let us “remove from [our] midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” Let us denounce any “quarreling and fighting” that keeps us from Him, and see that His will is done in our lives. Then indeed He shall hear us; then by this death to sin we shall come to the glory of our God.
O LORD, what can we do but fast
now that your Son has been taken from us? –
let us do His work, stand in His stead,
laying down our lives for all in need.
YHWH, your Son has been taken from us, and so, on this day we fast. He no longer walks among us, and so we must be as His presence. We must free the oppressed and feed the hungry, doing the works He did while He was in our midst. And if we do this, we shall be pleasing in your sight, as He was, and so be blessed.
With a contrite heart let us come to you, O LORD, recognizing our faults and failures to serve you as we ought. Instead of laying down our lives in humble service of those in need of your Word and your Bread, we have spoken ill of our brother and been oppressors ourselves. And so, any offering we have made has been in vain. And so we have but served to separate ourselves from you and your compassion.
O LORD, let us not continue blind to our wickedness but seek each day to convert our hearts to your call to be as your Son and live His way of sacrifice for the sake of others.
Wed, 17 February 2021
(Dt.30:15-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,39:5; Lk.9:22-25)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
In our first reading, Moses makes clear the choice we all must face: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” “By loving the Lord… heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him,” the Israelites will be blessed with “long life” in the Promised Land; they “will live and grow numerous” by “loving Him and walking in His ways.” This will be life for them. “If, however, [they] turn away [their] hearts and will not listen… [they] will certainly perish.” The promise to them will soon die if they walk “in the way of sinners.”
Life and death. The blessing and the curse. The just and the wicked. To the Israelites the promise that they would be “like a tree planted near running water” if they followed the commandments of the Lord referred quite literally, quite physically, to the blessing of long life and enjoying the fruits of the earth. It showed itself in the numbers of people in the nation and the land they were given to occupy. When they were cursed, their kingdom was torn down and the land taken away from them. They became “like chaff which the wind drives away” when they were forced into exile from the lands of Judah and Israel.
What is the land we must so treasure today, brothers and sisters? What place are we called to preserve by following in the way of the Lord? For now he “who gains the whole world” will likely “destroy himself in the process.” Now our sights, our hopes, can no longer be set on the physical universe. Jesus has come. The Son of Man walks in our midst. And His presence, His flesh, makes the heavenly homeland our desire – it is this which is now our Promised Land. It is the number born into this kingdom which now causes our hearts to rejoice. It is this blessing that now comes to him “who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
And the Lord makes clear what “the way of the just” now entails. Our gospel tells us “Jesus said to all” – not just to His disciples, but to all who would find the blessing, would find life – “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps.” And His steps include enduring “many sufferings,” being “put to death” and then being “raised up on the third day.” Now it is death that leads to life. Now this world must be left behind. Now, though we love all – even our enemies – and everything upon it, we must leave the earth we have held so dear. The command is the same (to renounce all sin and love God), but now the prize is much greater, and so the way there much more narrow. But the Lord blesses our every step toward Him.
O LORD, let us remain in you and in your Son,
walking the way of His Cross
that we might not lose our souls
but gain the life of Heaven.
YHWH, may we find not only long life on the land but eternal life in your heavenly kingdom by our turning away from all sin and following your Son on the way of the Cross. Let us be dead to all the distractions of this wicked world that we might dwell with you alone.
Death comes to the wicked, LORD, death that spells the demise of his soul, of his life in you who are Life itself. And so, how shall he live anymore if apart from you? And so, what is his life then worth? It is indeed like chaff driven away by the wind.
But those who take their refuge in you, who meditate on your Word and the Word that is your Son, these you prosper in all they do, for all they do is in your will and so cannot but receive your blessing, the blessing of your living presence, LORD.
Let us choose this day to live in you and never to turn our backs to your call to love. Laying down our lives, O LORD, may we be carried by your angels.
Tue, 16 February 2021
O seven men
who lived as one
in service of the Lord
under the mantle of Our Lady,
you who left everything of this world,
all you bought and sold,
that you might discover the riches
to the mountain you went
to find perfection –
to the mountain let us come
to live with God.
Led by the prompting of our Lord and Lady,
let us, too, be fruitful on this plane,
founded in humility and love and poverty,
living as one in the Body of Christ,
freely giving our lives
and so knowing the blessing
of the virtues upon which you fed.
Pray for us through our Mother
that we too follow the call of her Son.
Direct download: Feb._17_Seven_Founders_of_the_Order_of_Servites.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT
Tue, 16 February 2021
(Jl.2:12-18; Ps.51:3-6,12-14,17; 2Cor.5:20-6:2; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”
“We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” Paul exclaims; and the people of God today raise a cry, rending their hearts, begging His forgiveness… turning from their sins to find His healing grace.
The trumpet is blown in Zion; the people are gathered as one. Now “let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.” For now is the time of mourning, now is the time of prayer… now is the time to cry with David, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” For now as we “acknowledge [our] offense” we find how “gracious and merciful is He”; now “the joy of [His] salvation” returns to us as “a clean heart” He creates for us, as His Holy Spirit He instills in our souls. Yes, “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” And so let us cry out to our Lord: “Spare, O Lord, your people!”
The Lord will hear us, brothers and sisters; He will be quick to respond, as long as we are careful “not to receive the grace of God in vain.” As Jesus said to His disciples, so He says to us: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see.” Only such vanity will prevent our finding the “recompense from our heavenly Father.” Yes, we must give alms. Yes, we must pray. Yes, we must fast. But listen to the Lord’s instruction to “keep your deeds of mercy secret,” to “pray to your Father in private,” and to make sure “no one can see you are fasting but your Father who is hidden.” For then indeed “your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” for your sacrifice. But if your offering is one to impress the eyes of man, be sure the eyes of God do not look upon it and it shall find no blessing in His sight.
The time has come, the time of great mercy. As we call upon our God, “in the greatness of [His] compassion [He will] wipe out [our] offense.” In Jesus and in His sacrifice for our sin we might now “become the very holiness of God.” May we find now the Lord “stirred to concern for His land and [taking] pity on His people.” May we find His grace at work in our souls as now we give ourselves to Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Sackcloth Song" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you see what is hidden;
let there be in our hearts no sin
but only your heavenly presence.
YHWH, against you we have sinned, against you and your love. We have turned our backs to you and our guilt is with us always. But you are merciful and offer opportunity for repentance. You are good and kind and allow us to return to you. Help us to rend our hearts and weep in your presence, that we might know the healing touch of your forgiving hand.
Wash us thoroughly from our fault; let it no more be known in your sight, O LORD. Now is the acceptable time for repentance – in Jesus you will hear our pleas. O let His sacrifice be fruitful in your sight that we might be holy in Him this day!
And let our offering be acceptable to you as well. May our fasting and praying and almsgiving bring down your blessings upon us. Make us sincere, dear LORD, in our love for you and one another. Let us lay down our lives with your Son and know your presence in our souls. Spare us this day, O God; let us know the greatness of your mercy.
Mon, 15 February 2021
(Gn.6:5-8,7:1-5,10; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Mk.8:14-21)
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters,
the Lord, over vast waters.”
“Mighty” indeed is the voice of God, but who can hear it? Who listens to its “majestic” ringing in their ears?
In the time of Noah the Lord’s “heart was grieved,” for He “saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil.” So great was the Lord’s grief over man’s disobedience that He uttered the saddest words we could hear: “I am sorry I made them,” and resolved to “wipe [them] out from the earth.” If we have not pleased our Father, what hope have we of life? If we have not listened to His voice, what can we hear but a sentence of condemnation?
It seems Jesus’ heart is grieved, too, today at His disciples’ ignorance of His instruction. Here in a boat upon the waters His voice chastises their slowness to comprehend His call to wakefulness in the Spirit: “Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight? Ears but no hearing?” and finally, “Do you still not understand?” And though He seems eminently frustrated by the fact that their vision is still trained so stubbornly on the bread of earth rather than the Bread of heaven, though they so quickly forget the miracles He has worked and the power He has revealed, yet He shall not remove them from His sight, but continue in patience with their schooling.
For just as “Noah found favor with the Lord” and thus served to salvage our race from utter destruction, so the Lord’s apostles have found favor with Him. And Jesus knows that as “Noah did just as the Lord had commanded him,” putting complete faith in God’s word, so these disciples will also in strength and in faith carry out His mission after His own death and resurrection, after His ascension into heaven… and with the Holy Spirit’s power upon them. As in Noah’s ark God keeps man’s “issue alive over all the earth,” preserving them from the flood, so now in the barque of Peter “all the [Lord’s] household” takes refuge from the fiery destruction that is coming upon the world in these the last days.
Like the “one loaf” the disciples hold in their hands is the Church of the Lord – it is all that is needed for food in this world. And so as we sail along to the farther shore, let us listen to God’s mighty voice speaking through Her. As the end approaches, be sure to heed the Lord’s instruction: “Keep your eyes open!” Beware the hypocrisy and pride of the powers that be.
O LORD, how shall we be just in your sight
and begin to understand your majesty and glory?
YHWH, you are majestic, exalted far above earth and sea and every living creature. But we are deaf and blind to your ways, and so, beset by wickedness. How shall we hear your mighty voice calling to us over the waters, calling to us in your Son? How shall we heed the thunder of your glory and praise you in your Temple with full voice? How do we begin to understand what is far beyond our poor minds?
Send your Spirit upon us, LORD, that we might know and eat the Bread that is your Son, that we might be saved from the destruction that is coming upon all living things. Into your Ark let us come, into your holy Church; with your apostles let us dwell, enlightened by your teaching and sharing in your food.
The Bread of Heaven make our own, LORD, that we might rise above the earth to where you dwell enthroned in glory and majesty with your only Son.
Sun, 14 February 2021
(Gn.4:1-15,25; Ps.50:1,8,14,16-17,20-21; Mk.8:11-13)
“Sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Thus does the Lord encourage Cain not to hang his head at his failures in worship but to learn from his errors and be strong. Here already in Scripture we see how redemption is possible, how God gives us power to conquer sin. But Cain does not fight off the demon at his door but instead attacks his brother Abel, killing him who has overcome sin. The jealous demons write their name in Abel’s blood, by the hand of Cain his brother.
And the Pharisees are the same as Cain. It is they of whom our psalmist sings, they who “recite [the Lord’s] statutes, and profess [His] covenant with [their] mouth,” but whose hearts are far from Him and who “hate discipline and cast [His] words behind” themselves. It is they who “sit speaking against [their] brother,” for indeed they come to “argue with Jesus,” to “test” Him who is most especially their brother, who is their Messiah. And it is they who will shed their brother’s blood, who will conspire to kill their own “mother’s Son.” And though Jesus Himself “correct[s] [them] by drawing [their sin] up before [their] eyes,” yet, like Cain, they refuse to see the evil taking hold of them, and so will be unable to turn from it. And their punishment shall be greater than that of Cain, for so much greater is their sin. As Cain is banished from the soil which had been his own, so the covenant which the Lord had given into the Chosen people’s possession shall be taken from their leaders’ hands, and they shall be left empty – except for the hope of turning to Him and cleansing themselves in Jesus’ blood.
The sign the Pharisees seek is essentially one they would make with their own hands, one which they would find at their command. But “no such sign will be given” them, for then truly would they be condemned. They must come to the sign Jesus is and accept it as the Lord God offers – their attempts to control the Father’s will are perhaps the most tragic of transgressions. They say, as does Cain, that God must accept matters their way and are not humble to His Son’s teaching. And so, sadly for them, “He left them” there on the shore alone, burning in their jealousy.
Fight the demons, brothers and sisters. Ward off sin in all its forms. The Lord promises we shall have the strength, if we are willing to turn from our sins and accept His chastising word… and wash ourselves in His cleansing blood. But if we remain “resentful” and so “deaf” to the Lord’s correction, what shall save our souls? And with Cain we will wander restlessly the earth, avoiding the glorious presence of the Lord.
O LORD, we are a jealous race;
forgive our shedding the blood of our Brother.
YHWH, how sinful we are! How we turn our hand against our brother, inflicting upon him the punishment for our guilt. In condemning others we seek to rid ourselves of the condemnation we deserve; but this only brings the punishment on our own heads. Help us to admit our sin and turn away from it!
Killing our Brother will not free us from the death upon our souls. O LORD, how can we be so blind, so hardhearted, as to think such wickedness is our salvation? Jesus comes to us as our Brother, as the one closest to us and most concerned for our well-being… but we cannot bear to hear His voice speaking of our need to turn away from sin, and so, what can we do but kill Him? O set us free from bloodguilt!
Accept the sacrifice of a pure heart, dear God; make our offering to you sincere. Our very hearts let us give in the service of our brother.
Sat, 13 February 2021
O brothers in the faith
who brought that same faith
to the peoples
entrusted to your care,
who extended the reach of the Church,
gathering in lands
under her holy roof
and into her blessed arms…
faithful you were unto death
in proclaiming the word of God –
please pray that we, too,
shall be holy brothers of Christ,
offering our work, our lives,
for the sake of the nations
yet to be called
into His fold,
for the sake of peoples
unfamiliar with His Word,
that the heavenly kingdom
may come to fulfillment
and all be made one in God’s presence.
Sat, 13 February 2021
(Lv.13:1-2,44-46; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; 1Cor.10:31-11:1; Mk.1:40-45)
“I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’
and you took away the guilt of my sin.”
The leper in our gospel confesses his faults to the Lord when he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” for by these words he recognizes that “he is in fact unclean” – that he is a sick man in need of a physician. And Jesus takes away the guilt of his sin when He responds, “I do will it. Be made clean.” For by a mere word from His mouth we are purged.
That the sinner should cry out his guilt is evident even in the ancient Book of Leviticus; it gives specific instructions for the actions of the leper, whose sin has made him unclean: “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean.” Here is a graphic representation of the way we sinners should present ourselves to the Lord. Like the leper who cries to Jesus on his knees, we should never hide our sin from the Lord; our “guilt [should be] covered not.” For the Lord indeed sees all things – nothing is hidden from Him – so we fool only ourselves if we attempt to hide; and He can’t heal us of our affliction if we do not come into His light. We must come before Him in all humility for the poison upon our souls, and He will save us from our sin.
How sincere is the leper’s contrition to move the Lord to such immediate pity! How pitiable indeed he is, as to a final hope for cleansing waters he comes with head bowed to the earth, his years of suffering evident in his shaking voice. Whimpering like a dog he humbles himself before the Lord… and a tear we find in Jesus’ eye – inevitably He reflects our penitence in His grace. Let your heart break before Him! Bleed before the Lord who bleeds for you! Expose your sores to His eyes and His light shall cure them all.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us indeed “be imitators” of Paul, “not seeking [our] own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved,” that people will keep “coming to [Jesus] from everywhere” to find the healing of their “sore of leprosy,” to discover salvation from their sins. For He does “will it” for everyone – the redemption of all He holds in His arms of sacrifice. Let all souls show themselves to His priests; let all confess their sins openly, that reconciliation with God and one another all may know. O Lord, take away the sin from my soul! (Thank you for the sacrament you leave with us.)
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Be Well" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, take away the guilt of our sin
and return us to your fold
that we might declare your glory to all.
YHWH, let us not dwell apart from you but forgive us our sins and let us return to your presence. Your Son leaves your side for a time to save us from our exile; may His sacrifice bring healing to all this day.
We are all unclean in your sight, O LORD; before you we come on our knees begging to be relieved of our guilt. Heal the sore upon our souls, which would spell our death – stretch out your hand and make us clean.
How merciful is your Son, LORD. How perfectly He reflects your compassion for the sinner. He is moved with pity at our contrition; He shares our tears as His own. O let all souls press upon Him for salvation!
And let us all reflect His love in all we do, giving glory to you in all things. Let our tongues follow the confession of our faults with praise of your goodness… Let us become as Jesus, LORD, laying down our lives that all might be saved and return to you.
Fri, 12 February 2021
(Gn.3:9-24; Ps.90:1-6,12-13; Mk.8:1-10)
“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Because of the fall we come face-to-face with this truth: our own mortality, our own humility, that we are but a creature made from the dust of the earth. And this truth we must understand. Because we have “eaten from the tree of which [God] had forbidden [us] to eat,” “thorns and thistles” the earth brings forth for us and “by the sweat of [our] face shall [we] get bread to eat,” until we learn our place – for our own sakes – before our Creator, or “until we return to the ground, from which we were taken.”
“Cursed be the ground because of you!” the Lord God exclaims to the man. The womb of the woman, like the earth for man, shall bring her pain in bearing children, in bearing her fruit… and the serpent shall eat dust “all the days of [his] life.” If now we should eat of the tree of life, to what state would we be condemned! How shall we be saved from such a fate, wherein our own flesh brings upon us such pangs – how shall we escape ourselves? And how shall we look upon God again?
“Teach us to number our days aright,” our psalmist cries, “that we may gain wisdom of heart.” And what is he asking but that we realize, as God would teach us, that though He is “from everlasting to everlasting,” that though for Him “a thousand years are as… a watch of the night,” we are “like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.” So passing is our life. This indeed we must comprehend, for this is truth, and failing to understand it we shall not find answer to our prayer: “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” But knowing our limitations before our God, He comes quickly to remedy our weakness.
See how Jesus looks upon those who “were without anything to eat,” those whose bodies fainted before His eyes. Listen to the thought of His heart: “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd. By now they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way. Some of them have come a great distance.” Oh how the Lord has pity on us! Oh how He knows our plight – that we are but fading grass, having been far removed from His sight! And how He wills to feed us, to nourish those who come to Him, who share the “three days” of His trial. For though they toiled not, “the people in the crowd ate their fill” in the most peaceful of fields. The Lord had come to save them! And now eternal life is upon them.
Brothers and sisters, we need no longer fear our dying flesh, for the Lord feeds us with Bread that does not fail, that brings life eternal to the lowly body that eats it. And so, no longer are we dust alone, though to dust our body may return. But we become eternal souls in the hand of our Savior, eating from the tree of life He is. In all humility let us receive His gift, His saving presence among us. And to God we shall return, and now forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread of life
that we might lie in the dust no more.
YHWH, have pity on our weakness, for our flesh is like the changing grass – we do but wilt and fade. Weak in body and in spirit we find ourselves separated from you by our sins, by our disobedience to your command. You care only for our good; let us come to you and remain with you till you take pity on our souls.
You give us food to eat, O LORD, even the body of your only Son. Let us not prefer the food of this world or that which the devil offers. If our eyes are opened unto death, if we but see our weakness, our nakedness before you, without realizing your eternal love… to what end shall we come? We shall but return to dust.
Your punishments are good, LORD; your chastisements are what heal our tortured souls. Let our suffering be joined to Jesus’ own, that we shall hunger for you alone, and in our humility you will be quick to feed us and return us to your fold.
Thu, 11 February 2021
(Gn.3:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5-7; Mk.7:31-37)
“The eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked.”
How different this opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve is from the opening of the deaf man’s ears in our gospel; for our first parents’ eyes were opened unto blindness, but the deaf mute’s ears and tongue only to light.
Why this difference? Why such contrast in the freeing of the senses to receive their signals? Why is one evil and the other good? The opening of the eyes of the man and the woman brings their downfall because they are not prepared for what they see. They seek to be “like gods who know what is good and what is bad,” but they have not the skins to hold such wine of wisdom. And so they burst. And so they died before the glorious light suddenly before them… and so “the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden,” for they could not show their faces of dust before His Face of Majesty. (Indeed, the woman first erred when she “answered the serpent,” when she responded to his enticement, not realizing she was no match for his “cunning”… much as she failed to understand she is no match for God’s wisdom.)
On the other hand, the opening of the deaf man’s ears and the loosing of his tongue is prepared by Jesus Christ, He in whose presence we are able to see light itself, He who provides the new wineskins for our becoming like God, enabling us to stand before the wonder of His Holy Face. Notice how “Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd” before healing the deaf-mute; see how this contrasts with Adam and Eve’s hiding from God. Where they would avoid the glance of the Lord, Jesus brings the man closer to Him by drawing him away from the crowds; and there, more perfectly in His presence, He heals him. And the man is healed, of course, because he himself does not hide: he is brought openly by his friends to Jesus. In this way he “acknowledged [his] sin” before God; his “guilt [he] covered not” (as the man and woman covered their nakedness with fig leaves). No, in his “spirit there is no guile,” and so his “fault is taken away”; and so, paradoxically, he who “confess[es] his sin to the Lord,” as the humble King David, finds that by the Lord his “sin is covered” – he is forgiven.
Brothers and sisters, let us learn to open our tattered souls to our Lord and God, never to hide; for to hide is hell and the Lord calls us to Him in the light of heaven. And He will prepare our eyes to see, and He will make our ears ready to hear, and our tongues shall be loosed to praise His name and exclaim our amazement at His grace… for we shall be released from the blindness of sin and be as His Son, who alone can answer the devil.
O LORD, let us hear your voice calling us
to confess our sins and return to you this day.
YHWH, how terrible it is when we transgress your Word, when we rebel against your loving will! We are blinded by our sin even as our eyes are opened to our weakness… and so we hide from your glory, which we cannot contain.
We have bodies, LORD. You have made us so. We are not like you, pure Spirit and perfect Light. And how weak our bodies can be when we lack your secure protection, when we lose your presence with us by our failing to love you. Who can save us from such travail? Who can open our ears again to hear and heed your holy Word?
O LORD, as we confess our faults to you, as we come before your Son to seek His healing – He who comes to show us that we are like you (for He is like you and we like Him), He who would restore us to our place as your children, blessed to be in your image… then our nakedness is covered; it is taken away as we reveal our weakness before you. Let us listen only to you!
Wed, 10 February 2021
O lovely Lady who appeared to Bernadette,
Mary, Blessed Virgin and Mother of our Lord –
let our eyes, too, see your beauty
and hear your voice
calling us to pray for sinners,
calling us to come to you with our prayers
and to wash ourselves clean
in the water you provide
through Jesus your Son.
O Immaculate Conception,
so pure, so full of grace,
cleanse all our sickness from us;
let us be immersed
in the bath of purity
that washes us of sin,
that makes us whole
in the sight of God.
If we but had innocent hearts
we would see you,
we would remember the blessing you are
to all faithful souls…
O let us come to you
and find the grace we need this day.
Wed, 10 February 2021
(Gn.2:18-25; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.7:24-30)
“A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one body.”
And Jesus leaves His Father’s side and His mother’s care, and takes to wife His chosen people. From His side indeed we are born, and become His holy family.
To the “sons of the household” Jesus comes; among the Israelites He walks, calling them to His table to eat the food of eternal life, of eternal union with Him and His Father. Those who were conceived by God, who were taken as a rib from His own side and formed as His special bride, Jesus seeks to bring to full nuptial blessing in Him. For this He would even die (as any man should for his wife). But one “approached Him and crouched at His feet” who was not among those called to the “table first,” who was not of the family of the Chosen. Unfazed by His rebuff she continues begging, not for “the food of the children” but just for their “leavings,” their crumbs, knowing even this will be enough to join her to His banquet, believing only a word from His mouth will save her own daughter from the devil’s clutches and bring her to His sacred presence.
And moved is He by her who is unmoved by His rebuke. And so, “when she got home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.” And so she finds herself and her family wed to Jesus the Christ. Why? Because she is one who does indeed “fear the Lord,” who does in fact “walk in His ways”; crawling on her knees before Him, she finds herself “happy” and “favored,” eating “the fruit of [her] handiwork.” She knows she is not one of the “wild animals” or of the “birds of the air”: she is made in God’s image, a human being, and is inextricably drawn to His side, the side from which she has been born… and thus she finds her life and becomes with her daughter (with all us Gentile people) one of the “olive plants around [His] table,” grafted onto His “fruitful vine.”
Let man love woman as his own flesh, and let all men love one another as fellow children, for our Father in heaven loves us all much more greatly and draws us all to be wed to Him through our Bridegroom, His only Son. As His side is opened by the lance and so we His Church are born in His blood, washed clean by His holy water, so let husbands give themselves for their wives, knowing they are “taken from” their own sides. Yes, let us all die for one another that the love of God might extend to “the recesses of [His] home,” from which no soul is excluded. In His blessed marriage feast let us all shout for joy!
O LORD, blessed are those
who humble themselves before you;
they shall be joined to you.
YHWH, flesh of your flesh we are; flesh of your flesh let us be, wed to you through the flesh of your only Son. One with you let us dwell forever, for from you our very lives taken.
And help us thus to love one another, LORD. If you love us so much to give us yourself, let us then reflect your love and so give ourselves for the sake of others. Let husbands love their wives and all souls serve the needs of others, finding great joy and blessing in thus serving your will.
To your table let all come, LORD, that they might share the food of your children, the Bread that is Jesus your Son, the Word that is your Spirit. May all souls recognize the greatness and the goodness of Him who walks among us, and may we be hidden with Him in you and so become your fruitful children. In faith let us be born and live in you and with you forever; let none be alone or apart from you.
Tue, 9 February 2021
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Tue, 9 February 2021
(Gn.2:4-9,15-17; Ps.104:1-2,27-30; Mk.7:14-23)
“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.”
In addition, “out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.” These would feed the body of the man. But only spirit feeds the soul.
Body and soul. They meet in man and become one, yet one is the cause of life while the other passes. When God formed man out of the clay of the ground, what He held in His hands was the body, and at the time it was dead. Not until He breathed into him did man become alive: in this breath he found his soul. And the time shall come when this form does rot, but not the soul. Only in heaven will we have bodies that live eternally with our spirits (though certain saints – as did our Blessed Mother – may know this holy union even here on earth.)
And so does Jesus tell us “that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure,” and, to make this point graphically clear, adds, “It does not penetrate his being, but enters his stomach only and passes into the latrine.” What is of the body is just so passing, and therefore of no consequence. It is “what emerges from within a man” that “makes him impure.” For sins such as “acts of fornication, theft, murder,” etc. are not the result of the food we eat, but of the thoughts in “the deep recesses of the heart.” These are what make a man impure – or, by contrast, which will make him pure. It is the soul that is capable of good or evil, not the body. And even though it is eating of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” that causes man’s downfall, this is not the result of the fruit itself, but of the covetousness and pride of man’s disobedience. It is the ‘eating,’ the desire of the eye and the heart and the act which follows, which constitutes the sin, and not the fruit eaten.
Our psalmist speaks of the body and soul as well. It is so that by the Lord we are “filled with good things,” that He gives us “food in due time,” food we need for our survival; but as the psalmist says of the soul, “If you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust.” How quickly we would die, in a moment or two, without the breath of God in our nostrils, without His Word to give us life. And what great care we should take of the spirit that enters our beings. May our souls ever be set upon our God and His teaching. May our every thought and word and action be of Him, that we shall never be disobedient. O Lord, “when you send forth your Spirit, [we] are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” Give us your divine breath of life in our nostrils this day.
O LORD, you make us of the clay of the earth,
but it is not the body that is of consequence
but the Spirit breathing within us –
let it be your own.
YHWH, it is you who make us of the clay of the ground and you who breathe the breath of life into our nostrils. It is you who feed us in both body and spirit – you are our LORD and God.
It is you who care for us each day, O LORD, you who send your Son to take away our sins. He reveals to us that it is not the flesh that gives life but the Spirit that is within; and He would cleanse us of all iniquity that we might stand as your sons always.
Though Jesus comes in the flesh and gives us of His flesh to eat, this food is not the passing kind but that which lasts unto eternal life. And so, LORD, we pray that we shall embrace Him and the Word, the Spirit, He imparts to us. Thus will we be raised from the dust of death, from the chains that bind us to this earth, and rise with Him unto Heaven.
Feed us with your Word, LORD, that we might be renewed and live forever in your Garden.
Mon, 8 February 2021
(Gn.1:20-2:4; Ps.8:2,4-9; Mk.7:1-13)
“God created man in His image;
in the divine image He created him.”
At God’s word “the water teem[s] with an abundance of living creatures… birds fly beneath the dome of the sky,” and “the earth bring[s] forth all kinds of living creatures,” too. And “God saw how good it was.” Then God conceived the crown of His creation and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so, “little less than the angels He made him” and gave him “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” And all this was “very good” in God’s eyes. Alleluia!
But what does man do with this ultimate blessing from His Creator: he takes the freedom and power placed in his hands and makes himself a slave to “cups and jugs and kettles,” forever trying to wash his hands clean of the sin upon them. God gives man “rule over the works of [His] hands, putting all things under his feet,” and all man can do is trample upon them as he forgets the God who made him.
“How accurately Isaiah prophesied about [us] hypocrites when he wrote… ‘Empty is the reverence they do me because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts.’” Placing our traditions and practices above God’s commandments we lose sight of the glory upon us, of the majesty of God’s works around us, as we lock ourselves in a dark and empty room of our own making. And all the creatures God has placed in our unclean hands suffer too, as our hearts turn from their stewardship to our selfish plottings. And so, though we are crowned by God “with glory and honor,” we crown Him with thorns.
O Lord, “what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” Lord, come and restore us to our former glory. Father, let us give you true honor. May your Word be made fruitful in our lives and we become as your Son. Let all be blessed and made holy again in your sight. In Jesus’ blood please wash our hands, that we might help you build your peaceful kingdom.
O LORD, may your Word be fulfilled in us;
may we who were created in your image
be recreated in the image of your Son,
washed clean in His blood.
YHWH, you place all things in our hands, and we but corrupt them. Your glory and majesty you reflect in your creation, and especially in man, but he cares not well for your gift and abuses his dominion. His hands are not subject to your will but soiled by his own, and so creation with them.
In your image you create us, LORD: what greater blessing could there be! Like gods we are made to reflect your presence on this plane – why have we gone so astray? And how shall we return to you? Only by heeding the chastising word of your only Son, who speaks with your own authority. Listening to Him we heed your commands; turning from Him we can only be condemned.
Thank you for all your blessings, LORD, for the beauty and goodness of your creation. Most of all, we thank you for making us in your image. Let us not nullify your word and remove ourselves from your presence, but honor you in all we do.
Sun, 7 February 2021
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Sun, 7 February 2021
O soldier for the Lord
and servant of the poor
who trusted in God alone
and gave your life
for those in need –
may we, too, become friends of the one Lord,
purified of all dross
by the trials we endure
and by doing His will
in this world.
His children let us become
as we care for the children
most in need,
those who seem abandoned
His hands and His heart
let us be,
that in such love
we shall be free
of all fear and separation
from the Father
and so dwell with those we serve
in the peace of Heaven.
Sun, 7 February 2021
(Gn.1:1-19; Ps.104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,31,35; Mk.6:53-56)
“How manifold are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have wrought them all.”
It is the Lord who “fixed the earth upon its foundation not to be moved forever,” and “with the ocean, as with a garment [He] covered it” – “the earth is full of His creatures.” By the Word of His mouth all comes into being, and is sustained, sustained in the goodness of God.
Here as we read the beginning of sacred Scripture, we might do well to quote St. Bonaventure from the day’s Office of Readings. In speaking of knowledge of Christ as “the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture,” He states: “It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding.” But how many read God’s Word as though in a dark room.
The prevailing lack of faith and so blindness to the truth of Scripture is evident again today in the commentary of my missal, which says of the Creation prophecy in Genesis, “The story is divided artificially,” giving as example the fact that “the sun is created after light.” How indeed we grope in darkness without the light of the Spirit; without childlike faith we shall never understand God’s Word, never enter His kingdom. Is the light of God dependent upon the sun or the stars? When our psalmist sings of the Lord “robed in light as with a cloak,” is it sunlight of which he speaks? Does the light of the Lord not necessarily precede the limited light of the sun – which the Lord has but made “to govern the day” for a time – even as it shall be all by which we see when the sun and the moon and the stars pass away? Where is your faith, where is your understanding… why is the Lord’s light not in you, my brother?
Brothers and sisters, as the people of Gennesaret upon seeing Jesus “immediately recognized Him” and “scurried about” to bring all their sick to Him, so we must be drawn by the light of God to the Truth that is Christ the Lord. He is in every page of Scripture. He is at work with the Father in Creation. He is the all-powerful Word which brings all into being by its eminent wisdom made flesh before our eyes; and we shall never know the wonder of God’s works and the wonders He has wrought in our own soul unless we come to faith in Him. In Jesus are all God’s works revealed. He is the light of the universe. (And though His radiance extends beyond our sight to infinite galaxies, it is here in this dome between clouds and sea we dwell, the earth from which we have been formed solidly beneath our feet.)
O LORD, you created the world and all it holds
and redeemed us by your Son –
let your light be upon us this day.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth you have created the heavens and the earth and given us light to guide our way. It is you in whom all glory and majesty dwell, yet you have made this world as a reflection of your beauty. For this we should ever praise you.
But how we have disfigured your Creation, LORD! How we have lost our way. Still, you do not leave us alone in the darkness we have made – to us you send your only Son, Word made flesh, Light of the world. And as we recognize in Him your glory in our midst, as we reach out to Him for healing, we are made well again, whole in your sight.
Let us dwell, O LORD, in the place you have made for us; in your goodness let us remain. Through the ministry of your Son let us be fed by your hand, that we might be led one day to your Promised Land.
Sat, 6 February 2021
(Jb.7:1-4,6-7; Ps.147:1-6; 1Cor.9:16-19,22-23; Mk.1:29-39)
“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.”
In our first reading, Job is about as brokenhearted as a man could be, beset entirely by the devil’s trials as he is. “Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” his complete loss of goods and family and his own health has come upon him. And so he seems to see his days “come to an end without hope.” More miserable a creature there could not be.
In our gospel we are told that “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever” and that the people of the town in which Jesus found Himself “brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” Surrounded is He with the afflictions man suffers, the weakness to which our fallen race is so prone. It seems that all are indeed “brokenhearted” and wounded; as Simon Peter says upon finding the Lord praying in a deserted place the next morning: “Everyone is looking for you.” All need so greatly the healing only He brings.
And He does heal all who come to Him. As even before His birth into this world He served to set Job free from the clutches of Satan and grant him a new life which was beyond his hope; as Simon’s mother-in-law “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up,” the fever fleeing His touch; as “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons” from those gathered at the door of the house where He stayed… so He continues “preaching and driving out demons,” not only throughout Galilee and all of Judea and all of Israel, but to this day to the ends of the earth through His holy Church.
Our Lord has become “a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” Our weakness He has taken upon Himself to remove our weakness from us. Our diseases, our darkness, our sin… our “months of misery” He has borne that He might heal us of all infirmities – that He might bind up our broken hearts. Our salvation comes at the touch of His hand, at the breath of His mouth. Let us rise and walk with Him, for the Dawn has come and His grace-filled blood is upon us.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: ""This World of Sin" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, drive the demons from our souls,
heal our broken hearts,
that we might rise and offer you praise
all the days of our lives.
YHWH, has your Son not made Himself weak for our sakes? Has He not freely given His life to save us from sin? Does He not bind up our wounds and cast all demons from our midst? He heals the brokenhearted who cry out to Him – let us eagerly seek the touch of His hand.
We gather around your Son, O LORD, for He is the door that leads to your presence. Only He can save us from the misery of this dark world and redeem our troubled souls, and so let us praise your goodness to us as we draw near to Him.
We are all sick, LORD, all in the grip of a fever from which there seems no escape. The devil would have us believe the wickedness that surrounds us is eternal, but we know the night shall soon come to an end. Your light has already dawned upon us in the presence of your Son; let the grace of salvation be fulfilled in our midst.
Fri, 5 February 2021
O proclaimers of the faith
even unto death,
death on a cross,
you who have followed
in the way of our Lord
loving your enemies
even as they killed you,
encouraging your brothers
even with your last breath –
may the blood you shed not be forgotten
by those of the nation in which you preached
and by all souls who seek God;
may it nourish the land
and bring it to bear much fruit
Pray that we who are so fearful here
may find the faith and courage
and so be blessed with the same grace
that imparts the peace of the kingdom.
Fri, 5 February 2021
(Heb.13:15-17,20-21; Ps.23:1-6; Mk.6:30-34)
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.”
All things are cared for by the Lord; our work and our rest are in His hands. Nothing need we fear. No good desire goes unfulfilled – His sheep He loves.
Brothers and sisters, “through Christ may [the God of peace] carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him.” Let Him guide you “in right paths” for the accomplishment of His will. In “good deeds and generosity,” in obedience to superiors, in every intention of the heart, “continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge His name,” for this thanksgiving He desires before all deeds and in all deeds; such praise will ensure His blessing, and lead to greater praise, and so greater blessing! Have every confidence that the Lord “will furnish you with all that is good, that you may do His will,” and rejoice always in all you accomplish by His grace.
See in our gospel that when “the apostles returned to Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and what they had taught,” “He said to them, ‘Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little.’” They have done His work faithfully, and now He would give them rest; now He would refresh and renew their souls. “Beside restful waters He leads me”: in a “boat by themselves” He takes them. “In verdant pastures He gives me repose”: “to a deserted place” the boat goes. And though upon arrival at their destination the people wait “like sheep without a shepherd” and so their work must resume, this does not distract from the promised rest which awaits the finishing of our work in this world, and indeed but emphasizes that our rest shall be complete only in heaven.
For now the Lord watches over. Now He cares for us like needful sheep. Now He takes upon Himself all our fears and burdens, and calls us to do the same for all. What should we want? What do we need when we do the Lord’s will? In this laying down of our lives all is provided; in our work we take our rest, we eat our bread. For He is with us with His “goodness and kindness”; He remains at our side even in darkness… We become one with our Shepherd, and no further grace we desire.
O LORD, in you alone we take our rest,
through the blood of your only Son.
YHWH, through Jesus may we carry out your will; washed in His blood may we be raised from the dead. In Him let us take our refuge, and nothing shall be wanting to us.
In your Son all our needs are met, and this to overflowing. For He has pity on all our weakness – O LORD, let us be obedient to our Shepherd!
LORD our God, let us praise you in all things, your NAME ever on our lips. In all our work may we be blessed and brought into your heavenly presence.
You would give us rest, dear God; you call us to an out-of-the-way place to be with you. May we find repose in your eternal kingdom after these days of toil are passed.
But even here you are with us, LORD, even in this dark place. Your Son is the Shepherd who walks amongst His sheep, leading us ever to your side.
Thu, 4 February 2021
O good child of God
who gave your life so willingly
for the sake of Christ
and so wore His holy blood
upon your robes,
you who were blessed
to remain ever faithful to the Lord
even as those around you
turned from His presence –
pray for us this day
that our lives too
may be holy and blessed
as your own,
that we too might give witness to the Lord
with the same pure love
you did so readily show.
Pray we shall be wed to the Spouse
you so intimately knew
and thus become one with Him
and all His saints in Heaven.
May our lives also be good,
may they also be godly,
and may we, too, stand as others fall.
Thu, 4 February 2021
(Heb.13:1-8; Ps.27:1,3,5,8-9; Mk.6:14-29)
“I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.”
A series of parallels we have today between our first reading and our gospel. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Hebrews not to “neglect to show hospitality” to our “fellow Christians,” since we may be “entertain[ing] angels” thereby; but it is not angels Herod entertains at his birthday banquet, and a false sense of hospitality leads him to grave sin, as when Herodias’ daughter requests the Baptist’s head on a platter, “because of his oath and the presence of his guests,” he “dispatch[es] an executioner.”
Paul also tells us to “be mindful of prisoners as if [we] were sharing their imprisonment”; and it seems almost against himself Herod indeed sympathizes with John. We are told, “When he heard him speak he was very much disturbed; yet he felt the attraction of his words.” He knows John is the angel he should better entertain, but denies the voice speaking to his heart. And so Paul’s warning, “You may yet suffer as they do,” proves true with Herod, who is clearly imprisoned by his own fear that John has been raised from the dead to haunt his soul.
Of course, the central cause of all Herod’s problems is his breaking the command Paul expresses distinctly: “Let marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,” for it is “on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married,” that John chastises Herod, that the king has the prophet imprisoned, and that he is cornered into murdering him. And so now he knows very deeply the extent to which “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” Indeed, his adulterous relationship and his niece/daughter’s dance of lust stand as examples comparable to the profligate lands of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality, for their opposition to the Father’s love.
It is the Father’s love and our trust therein which rises above the immorality and violence so present in our gospel. At the heart of Paul’s letter is his paraphrase of today’s psalm: “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” Indeed the faith in God David sings of so confidently – “Though an army encamp against me… though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust” – is what the Baptist holds in his own spirit, even as he extends his neck for the executioner’s blade. He knows well that the Lord “will hide [him] in His abode in the day of trouble,” and so no trouble does his death cause him: the Lord will certainly “set [him] high upon a rock,” keeping him untouched by the lust and destruction which surround him in Herod’s dank prison. It is Herod upon whom darkness shall fall.
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me.” Through all things let me remain in your light. And as John’s life ended, this greatest of “leaders who spoke the word of God” to us, so let my own, in faith in you, O Lord, who are with us forever.
O LORD, though thrown in prison or put to death,
still you protect us;
in purity in your presence let us dwell.
YHWH, O what fate awaits those who feed their lust, who wallow in the wickedness of this world! Theirs is a punishment far worse than death, for never will their fear come to an end.
But those who love you and their brothers, LORD, those who have pity on souls most in need, these are shielded by you in the day of trouble and shall rise to be with you in the end.
Your children are persecuted on this earth, O LORD our God. They walk in the footsteps of your Son. But despite the war that is waged upon them, despite the threat of death itself, those who trust in you are not shaken. But those who sit upon the thrones of sin, those who give free reign to their passion and greed – these do but fat themselves for the day of slaughter, when the dance of lust shall be long past.
Let us serve you in our brothers, LORD. Let us share in the pains of those oppressed and keep ever to your way, and you will keep us from all harm to sit with John and Jesus on the last day.
Wed, 3 February 2021
(Heb.12:18-19,21-24; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mk.6:7-13)
“You have drawn near to MountZion
and the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem…”
“…to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” Alleluia! “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” And great is our call to dwell in His blessed City with all His holy ones, and with our Lord. Could there be a greater cause for joy? For “His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth,” and the joy of heaven.
To the New Jerusalem we are drawn, brothers and sisters, to the fairest heights. Holiness in the Lord is our call – to dwell with our Lord forever. But what is the road that leads to such a blessed mountain? How do we who tread the dust of this earth find our way to heaven? Evident the Lord makes the path today in the summoning of His apostles. In their call we find our own.
“Do not bring a second tunic,” Jesus says to the Twelve as He sends them forth to preach and to heal. For they are to make no provision, to put no stock in the things of the earth… “to take nothing on the journey.” Their trust must be entirely in Him and the word with which He anoints them: the power He gives, the grace He provides, is sufficient not only to cast out demons, but to find all we need for our day-to-day lives. The Lord teaches us as He teaches them that our faith must be complete, our spirits wholly set on His will, if we are to make our way across the dust of this earth to His kingdom. Nothing short of the sacrifice He Himself offers first will bring us there. His sprinkled blood must be upon us, and work through us.
“O God, we ponder your kindness in your temple”; we marvel at your grace. For no longer by “fearful… spectacle” of “blazing fire” and “gloomy darkness” do you make yourself known to us. No longer are you “untouchable,” Lord. But present in our midst, sandals upon your feet, you, O unapproachable glory, draw near to us, and so enable us to draw near to you, to touch you, O wounded Savior. And your sandals you place upon our feet and invite us to walk in the way you have shown. May we do so, Lord, as humbly as thou; and so to our eyes and our hearts make your kingdom known.
All the saints in heaven, pray for us. All His holy angels, watch over our way. May our feet stand forever upon the Lord’s holy mountain. In His heavenly City let us make our home. (In His Church, in His Mass, He is with us.)
O LORD, may we take with us only
the Cross of your Son
as we journey to your holy mountain.
YHWH, how can we express the joy of the gracious gift of your Son in our midst? In Him your Temple comes to us; in Him we dwell in your City, O living God. He is the mountain to whom all holy souls come. His is the blood that washes us clean and prepares our hearts to receive your glory. May we follow in His steps this day that we might live ever in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Nothing need we but your Son and His Cross, O LORD. There is nothing in which we should put our trust but His Word. For walking in His sandals all is provided for us – what does any son need but you.
O Father in Heaven, in your great love you think of us and draw us into your presence with all the holy ones. Let us be made ready to stand on your mountain by our trust in you today. Let your Son work in us; in Him let us make our home.
Tue, 2 February 2021
O bringer of light
to many nations,
you who struggled on
for the souls placed in your care
that all might know the Christ
for whom you toiled,
to convert obstinate hearts –
may your zeal
inspire missionaries this day
to go forth selflessly
proclaiming the Gospel to all,
bearing witness to the Lord
in the cross they bear
in season and out of season;
whether producing much fruit
or being rejected,
may their hearts be set on the Word
and the love of God
for His children.
Pray especially those lands you led to Christ
will turn again
to the one true light.
Tue, 2 February 2021
O shepherd whom we invoke
for the healing of throats,
you who suffered torments
for the sake of the Name
and embraced death
as leader of His flock –
open our throats
to speak of Jesus,
to declare His goodness and glory,
the salvation that comes
only through Him.
Let us not fear
nor shrink from the threats
of the mighty
but stand fast
in the Lord’s healing grace,
confident that His every blessing
will keep us well
and on the path
that leads only to Heaven.
Pray all sickness flee from us
this day and forever.
Tue, 2 February 2021
(Heb.12:4-7,11-15; Ps.103:1-2,13-14,17-18; Mk.6:1-6)
“Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines;
He scourges every son He receives.”
Like His only Son we must be. For without discipline where would we be? Apart from the Lord’s chastising hand, into what state would we fall? Without the cross, how could we find the kingdom?
If the Lord did not scourge us, we would be blind as His countrymen in our gospel today, who question even what their ears behold and their eyes see – dead to His presence we would remain. Only the dust of His flesh would we look upon, thinking He is no more than our sinful selves; far short of His divinity would we fall. And so a word of chastisement He brings to our hearts, as He does those of “His native place,” of “His own house,” condemning our failure to honor God in His prophets and in His Son, calling us beyond our eyes of flesh to the breath of the Spirit.
Oh how our “lack of faith distress[es] Him”! Oh how He would stir within us “that holiness without which no one can see the Lord”! For “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and His kindness He would have all know. But failing of a reverent awe for the Most High Lord, what do we do but grovel in the dust? Our hearts cannot know Him if they are not humble; our souls cannot bless Him if they are not holy… and so we lose “all His benefits” by a stubborn pride. This is not the will of God.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord “knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.” But from the dust He calls us to join Him on high, to rise above our earthen state. In His compassion the Father would have us be even as He is; and so He sends His only Son to suffer for our sins, to show us the path to holiness we must walk. “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees”; fear not the cross of Jesus. For by it you will be made strong, you will be made whole; through it “the grace of God” will pour, and make you as His own.
Peace soon follows every cord of scourging; the nails in our hands open our souls to the Spirit’s movement, to the Lord’s love, as by this bleeding our sins are purged. And in His light we shall soon stand, “all [our] being bless[ing] His holy name.” Then we shall no longer question His wisdom but in His mercy make our home.
O LORD, may we be your sons
not just in flesh but in truth;
your compassion be upon us
in the discipline of your Word.
YHWH, thank you for your discipline, for your blessed chastising hand. It is out of love you correct us; in your compassion you desire us to be with you. Let us praise you for your kindness.
Forgive us, LORD, all our blindness, all our failure to see your hand at work. Our disobedience hurts us most of all, for by it we separate ourselves from your love. In our lives let your will be done!
If you had not compassion on our erring hearts, if you scourged not our sinful souls, where would we be, LORD, where would we be? From your healing and your teaching let us never be apart.
Come to your native place this day, O LORD. Those baptized in your NAME please bless. Let us welcome you with open arms into our houses, treasuring every chastising word, and we shall be at peace in your presence.
Mon, 1 February 2021
(Heb.12:1-4; Ps.22:26-28,30-32; Mk.5:21-43)
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
who inspires and perfects our faith.”
Like the woman in our gospel who saw Him in the crowd and with great confidence made her way toward Him but to reach out and “touch His clothing,” knowing in her heart that by this she “shall get well”; like the official of the synagogue who draws near and falls at His feet begging healing for his daughter, who even after being told, “Your daughter is dead,” does “not grow despondent or abandon the struggle” but takes refuge in the Lord’s encouragement to trust; like all the “cloud of witnesses” that have sought Him, that have believed in Him, that have never taken their eyes off Him or His love – let us be saints who “lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead,” and we shall receive our reward even as those who have gone before us have done. By endurance in faith we shall find Jesus.
Sin it is, of course, that is the greatest obstacle to sanctity in the Lord, to achieving our goal of eternal life in heaven; death and disease are merely the fruits of this poisonous tree. And so the “fight against sin” is truly our greatest struggle, for once sin is set aside, peace comes to our souls and we are no longer anxious or fearful, despite any workings of the devil – despite the destruction in his hands. The woman’s “flow of blood” (for as many years as Jairus’ daughter, “a child of twelve,” has been alive) is but symptomatic for us of the greater affliction of transgression against God. And even the young girl’s death is nothing really, for it is so that “she is [only] asleep,” as the Lord says, and not dead at all… and so death and disease mean nothing unless they are accompanied by sin. It is this plague which must be overcome.
And for this healing we come to Him. For this grace we must press upon Him, like the crowds who surround Him this day. And like the raised child’s parents our “astonishment [will be] complete,” for we shall be clean: we shall be alive in the Lord. “To Him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth”; by Him alone all shall be raised. So let us keep our eyes and our hearts fixed upon Him, knowing “they who seek the Lord shall praise Him” – in Him our faith is complete. “To Him alone [our] soul shall live”; therefore, let us bleed with Him this day.
O LORD, let us be freed of all illness;
let us be raised from our graves to walk with you.
YHWH, our faith unites us to you and so we find healing for every disease and every sin, for no evil lives in you. And so, help us to endure all, keeping our eyes ever fixed on your Son and the hope He brings to our souls, and we shall be well in your presence.
O LORD, you raise us from the sleep of death and sin. Your Son who walks in our midst leads us to your glory. And so, let us bow down before Him, humbling ourselves in faith, and our every prayer shall be answered; and we shall be united to you and your glorious majesty.
Why should we be afraid? Why should we fear placing our trust in you? Let no obstacle stand in the way of our coming to you that we might join the band of your holy ones in your eternal kingdom. Though we must shed our blood in the struggle, let us know our salvation is assured.