Mon, 25 January 2021
(Heb.10:1-10; Ps.40:2,4,7-11; Mk.3:31-35)
“I have come to do your will, O God.”
But what is this will of God? How do we know it? How shall we live it? The will of God is known through the obedience of the Son, in His sacrifice for our sins; and all who seek to do the will of God must follow in His way, offering themselves freely, innocently, to the Lord for the sake of the Body of Christ.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asks the crowd. Who enter into His fold, becoming children of God the Father? “Whoever does the will of God.” Whoever does the will of God is the only answer He could make. Whoever is as His mother and says, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word”; whoever is as His brother apostles and suffers martyrdom for the faith, unafraid to speak out in His name; whoever is like the simple sheep surrounding Him in the gospel today, listening so obediently to the heavenly words He utters… these are “brother and sister and mother” to Him. Oh what a glorious family to be among!
Brothers and sisters, we no longer have “only a shadow of the good things to come” but rather a “real image of them” in the flesh and blood of the only Son. The salvation of our God is abstract and fleeting no more, for the Lord has come in a body to make ever so real for us the glory of God. Our hearts should leap up at His presence; our ears should be “open to obedience” to hear and heed His voice. Our mouths agape, we should wonder at His presence among us and desire only to become one with Him who holds our very lives in His sacred heart, in the Spirit upon the flesh He is.
Oh have we not “waited, waited for the Lord”? And how should we not act now that He has “stooped toward” us, now that He has humbled Himself to become man? A spirit of exultation should fill us, for by His presence with us He “put[s] a new song into [our] mouth, a hymn to our God.” Our hearts are set on fire with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we can no longer “restrain [our] lips,” but must declare even with our precious Lord: “I have come to do your will,” to join in your blessed sacrifice – to know the glory of kinship with you, my God, by whom we are all called.
O Lord, “I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.” I declare it on these pages. Please gather me this day into your holy family.
O LORD, help us to join your Son in doing your will
by laying down our lives in this world.
YHWH, let us do your will. This alone we ask of you. Let us do your will that we might join with your Son, our Brother, and be sanctified by the offering of His body for our sakes. Let us join with Him in seeking to do your will, in offering our bodies as sacrifice, in declaring your goodness to all souls.
Put a new song into our mouths, LORD, one that proclaims your glory. Let us be filled to overflowing with your presence in our souls that we cannot but speak of your kindness and your truth, your faithfulness and your salvation. Here am I; I come to do your will. Let this be our song. Let us be cleansed of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus – let our body be as His own.
O that we might be your holy family, LORD, that we might be as Mary and the apostles, giving our complete “yes” to your call. May your Son open His arms to gather us into your presence.
Fri, 22 January 2021
(Heb.9:2-3,11-14; Ps.47:2-3,6-9; Mk.3:20-21)
“Behind the second veil was the tabernacle call the holy of holies.”
To this holy of holies in the temple of Jerusalem only the high priest could come, and only once a year. So holy was it deemed. This tabernacle contained the ark of the Lord with the two tablets upon which the commandments of God were written, and some manna from the Israelites’ travels through the desert. This was truly sacred ground for God’s chosen people, a place they held in awe.
In our gospel the people press upon Jesus; they gather in great numbers at the door of the house where He is staying, sensing that this place is a holy of holies, that there is something inside that makes it sacred. But from this holy tabernacle they are not excluded for its sanctity, but welcomed by Him who is inside, who makes it holy. So much does He welcome those who come to His door that He does not take time even to eat. Better He should feed those who come to Him with His sacred presence than that He should feed Himself, for He will not see any turned away.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus has “entered once for all into the sanctuary, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,” and He Himself has become the “holy of holies”: He Himself is the sacred sanctuary in which God reposes. And He is with us. To this day He is in our presence. Do you not know that He rests in every tabernacle of every one of our churches on this earth? Do you realize the holy of holies that is in our midst? And when He is exposed upon our altar for all to adore, do you realize that here “God sits upon His holy throne”? And do you come to Him? More than a mere image or reflection of the glory of heaven, truly that transcendent glory is present in this bread the angels consume, and which is offered us here.
And so, should we not “shout to God with cries of gladness” or prostrate ourselves in absolute reverence at this the presence of “the Lord, the Most High, the awesome… the great King over all the earth” here in our midst? Should we not receive Him worthily, realizing that here is the holiest of holies whom we cannot reverence too greatly, whom we cannot worship enough? “God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts,” and we should join in this celebration and “sing praise to our King” before the throne upon which He sits, before the Tabernacle in which He rests.
Come to Him in sacred wonder. In this Sacrament He waits. May “the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”
O LORD, your Son has ascended into your presence
carrying our sins and washing us clean in His own blood –
how incomprehensible is your great love for us!
YHWH, let us worship you, O living God, through Jesus your Son, who has entered into your sanctuary carrying all our sins that we might be cleansed of them and offer you holy praise. He is your Tabernacle in our midst. Let us come to Him and there find our healing, and there find our salvation.
O LORD, your Son cares only for our salvation, not for feeding Himself. His very body He would make our food and so He offers all His life, every hour of His day, for our salvation. Never would He turn away from us or keep us waiting for your grace. Let us not fail to come to Him to find the blessing He imparts.
The blood of the Christ cleanses our consciences and provides for our eternal redemption. It carries us to the Holy of Holies where you dwell, O Most High God. In awe let us sing your praise with Him who mounts His throne this day. Reign over us with your love; through the blood of your only Son may we stand unblemished in your presence.
Thu, 21 January 2021
(Heb.8:6-13; Ps.85:8,10-14; Mk.3:13-19)
“I will be their God
and they shall be my people.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land”; for absolute oneness do we find with our Lord and God through the ministry of His only Son. For the Lord has said of His new covenant, “All shall know me, from least to greatest,” promising: “I will place my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.” There shall be no separation from His presence for those who believe; His “kindness and truth shall meet” in us as they have in Jesus. Alleluia!
But yet does the time move toward perfection. Though the new covenant be fulfilled in Jesus, it is still being fulfilled in the world and among those who dwell in the world. We know this because the Lord says of the covenant to come, through His prophet Jeremiah: “They shall not teach their fellow citizens or their brothers, saying, ‘Know the Lord’” – there being no need any longer to teach the perfected – and also, “Their sins I will remember no more,” meaning that sin will no longer exist. But Jesus upon commissioning the twelve apostles sends them out “to preach the good news” and “to have authority to expel demons,” and to this day there is need, and great need, for instruction in the Word of God and healing by the expulsion of sin in Holy Confession. This ministry still in place, we know we have yet to reach perfection; we know we have yet to find absolute oneness with Christ and His sacrifice… and so, perfect union with the Father yet awaits us.
“He appointed the twelve as follows: Simon to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John, the brother of James (He gave these two the name Boanerges, or ‘sons of thunder’); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon of the Zealot party, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” Upon these the new covenant is founded. By their ministry it shall grow, taking root in the world and bearing much fruit. And though Matthias must take the place of the traitorous Judas, there is no breaking the line that comes from these foundation stones: all of the coming kingdom is traced to them and from them, for they are anointed by the Son and by them God will make all His children.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” In His Church as in His arms make your home, for His blessings are upon us and shall be fulfilled.
O LORD, let us be companions of your Son
that we might be made one with you.
YHWH, as your Son is joined to you and the apostles to Him, so let us be joined to them that we might be joined to Jesus and you, and your promise might be fulfilled and your NAME be written on our hearts. O let it be so, that all shall know you, that we shall be your people.
O LORD, let truth spring out of the earth as your justice looks down from Heaven. Let the union of Heaven and earth accomplished in your Son be accomplished in us as we join ourselves to Him. O let us walk in the way of His steps that we might find salvation!
LORD, forgive us our sins, remember them no more – cast all evil from us. May the priests who stand in your Son’s place absolve us of all wrongdoing as we come on our knees before them. Your power be upon us for good; by your Word let us be taught, till we are entirely one with you, living in your New Covenant, living in the flesh of Christ, as His holy Body.
Wed, 20 January 2021
(Heb.7:25-8:6; Ps.40:7-10,17; Mk.3:7-12)
“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through Him,
since He forever lives to make intercession for them.”
Oh how the people approach Him today, seeking healing, seeking grace: “a great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon” – from all around they came to press upon Him, to press upon Him… “All who had afflictions kept pushing toward Him to touch Him. Unclean spirits would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, “You are the Son of God!” So great were their numbers He needed to take refuge in a fishing boat. Oh “the press of the crowd against Him,” the press of the crowd. They could not resist drawing toward Him who stood at the center of the universe, Him who stood in the place of God, Him who was God. Greater than the pull of gravity was the pull of their hearts toward salvation.
And do you think He has left you, brother? Do you say, “Where is He now that I need healing, that I may press upon Him myself?” He has not left you alone; He has multiplied His presence and increased His grace through the ministry of His apostles. They now go out to those who would press upon Him, and through these priests they find the high priest, He who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.” Indeed, He is not on earth anymore and His ministry is not earthly – yet He is ever present to all who stretch forth their hands to Him. Do you not know the immense mercy available to you in the Sacrament of Confession? Do you not realize the heavenly food you eat in Holy Communion? Press upon Him this day; approach the priests who, despite their imperfections, hold the power He has left in our midst, and to your loving God you will come.
“Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry now,” and “He is mediator of a better covenant,” an eternal covenant. Brothers and sisters, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven, minister of the sanctuary and of that true tabernacle set up not by man but by the Lord.” What greater gift could we ask for? How much more exalted could we be called to be than to receive mercy from Him who dwells in the heart of the Father, than to take food from the hands of Him who holds the hand of God?
O Lord, “may all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’”
O LORD, your Son has taken on our flesh
that He might draw us
into the sanctuary of your presence
O let us join ourselves to Him!
YHWH, your Son is able to save all those who approach Him, for He sits with you in the heavenly sanctuary having offered Himself for our sakes. And so the crowds press upon Him, and so the devils cannot but recognize His power over them… and so we are saved from our sin by our faith in Him and offering ourselves to you through His hands.
O LORD, may we be an acceptable sacrifice to you, joined well to the sacrifice of Jesus. May we say with Him, “I come to do your will,” and think of nothing but obedience to your call. Write your law within our hearts that we might transcend the darkness of this place as we align our lives with your Son’s and die to all that keeps us from you. He is made perfect forever in your presence and intercedes for us to be made perfect with Him. O let us press upon Him this day that we might ever glorify your NAME.
Tue, 19 January 2021
(Heb.7:1-3,15-17; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.3:1-6)
“Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
We hear today more specifically about “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God,” whose name means “king of justice” and also “king of peace,” who is therefore so like our King Jesus; it is in his line the Lord takes His place.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor,” King David declares of his Lord and our Lord. Indeed before the dawn of light upon earth, Jesus is King: He is the only-begotten Son of God whose rule is from everlasting to everlasting; and His priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is “in virtue of the power of a life which cannot be destroyed” – not by physical descent but by spiritual ascension. From God Himself He receives His kingship and His priestly anointing.
In contrast to the eternal priesthood and princely headship of our Lord and Savior, we see in our gospel those whose power comes only by “virtue of a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent,” and which is, therefore, passing away. Indeed, before their eyes it passes this day as Jesus stands before the Pharisees at the front of the synagogue and calls them to acceptance of the greater glory now in their midst. But they “closed their minds against Him” as they refused to realize the limitations of their own calling as leaders of the people, choosing to cling to a dying law and a power which is being taken from them even as a greater is offered, rather than stretching forth their hands to the Lord, in whom the law takes life and finds fulfillment, through whom all power comes…
Yes, the Lord “stretch[es] forth” “the scepter of [His] power” even as the man stretches forth his “shriveled hand” here at the front of the synagogue, before all the people and their teachers on a sabbath day, and finds it “perfectly restored.” The same He would do for each of them and for all of us, if we but recognized His transcendent power and glory, if we but realized He is the Son of God.
O LORD, your Son is of the Spirit
but we are of the flesh;
help us to offer this poor flesh
through His eternal priesthood.
YHWH, in the line of Melchizadek your Son comes to us, without beginning of days or end of life, for by you He is begotten before the world was brought forth. And so His power is like your own, and so in Him we shall not die but be healed of all evil upon us.
We praise you, LORD, for your justice toward us, for the presence of your Son. For in Him we take our refuge; in Him we find our salvation. O let us freely reach out our hands to the grace He offers that He might stretch forth His scepter toward us and we be made whole in your sight!
The Day you make is one of peace, O LORD, and so the Son you send brings to us that peace. Let us give to Him our possessions, even our very body and soul; for all He touches He sanctifies, and so we will thus be blessed by Him.
No hardened heart could ever destroy Him or His love. Let us sacrifice ourselves with Him, LORD, that we might join Him at your right hand.
Mon, 18 January 2021
(Heb.6:10-20; Ps.111:1-2,4-5,9-10; Mk.2:23-28)
“I will indeed bless you, and multiply you.”
God promised to bless Abraham, to make his descendants numerous as the stars; and “He swore by Himself,” “by oath,” to carry out His promise, thus giving an unshakable, “unchangeable” “firmness to [the] promise.” God does not go back on His word. And so, “after patient waiting, Abraham obtained what God had promised”; He became the father of many nations, of all those of faith.
Now if God is so faithful, should we who are “heirs of His promise,” who are children of Abraham in the faith and so the sharers of the same blessings promised to him, should not “we who have taken refuge in [God]… be strongly encouraged to seize the hope which is placed before us”? For we, “through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises”; and greater promises than Abraham do we receive at the hand of our Lord now, for our “hope extends beyond the veil through which Jesus, our forerunner, has entered on our behalf.” As David “entered God’s house… and ate the holy bread which only the priests were permitted to eat,” and “even gave it to his men,” so Jesus enters His Father’s house, passing through the gates of heaven into the sanctuary, into the holy of holies, and there partakes of bread at His Father’s hand… and indeed shares it with us, His brothers.
Oh brothers and sisters, each day we partake of the bread of the angels from the hand of the Lord; it surrounds us like the “standing grain” around the disciples. And does it not prove to us that “great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? Doesn’t it reveal to our souls that our hope in Him is “a sure and firm anchor,” that His love for us is strong and all His promises are fulfilled in our midst, before our eyes? “God is not unjust.” No, “gracious and merciful is the Lord.” “Holy and awesome is His name,” and He shares the glory of His presence with all His children: “He has given food to those who fear Him.” So, let us “not grow lazy” in faith but take strength in this food He supplies. “He will not forget [our] work and the love [we] have shown Him by [our] service.” But let us continue to serve Him in our brothers; let us “show the same zeal till the end,” that all His promises we may taste. Indeed, the more we eat His bread, the more we accomplish His work, the more His blessings are multiplied, in us and in the world!
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” The gift of God’s rest is ours, releasing us from slavery. Freedom we find in His name, blessing we find in His promise – His rest is upon us as we remain in Him. And “He will forever be mindful of His covenant”: His blessings shall ever increase in our souls.
O LORD, your Son has entered into your presence
that we might be fed with the Bread of Life –
let us hope always in Him.
YHWH, if Abraham’s cause for hope was great, how much greater is our own, we for whom Jesus has passed through the veil of death that we might enter your presence? Now that your Word has been made flesh and been given to us as food for our journey, how much stronger should our faith be, and so, how much surer our work? We should not bend in the wind like standing heads of grain but know the glory to which we are called as we reach up to you through the grace that is with us by the sacrifice of your Son.
O LORD, you are indeed gracious and merciful; you look upon our needs and answer them. You promise to be with us always and increase and multiply our works, so long as we remain faithful to you. Let us trust in your Word to us and find hope always that you are near. In Jesus your Son, you have walked among us – your great love for man let us never forget.
Give us the food we need even this day, O LORD, the Bread that is our very life.
Sun, 17 January 2021
(Heb.5:1-10; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.2:18-22)
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Without beginning or end is the holy priesthood of our Lord; high above all sacrifices reigns His own.
“Taken from among men” is Jesus our high priest “and made [our] representative before God.” Like others He is in this respect; yet the “gifts and sacrifices” He offers are infinitely greater than any that have ever been, for it is Himself He lifts up for our sins. “He is Himself beset by weakness,” though not His own; He is Himself pierced for transgression, though not of His making – and in the cross of our condition He bears “in the flesh,” in the crucifixion He suffers at our hands, does the high priest become the victim whose blood covers the earth with redemption. Yes, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” What other high priest can boast as much?
And yet the people would limit the grace that pours forth in the blood of His sacrifice, in the sweet-smelling flesh He offers, to a dying law which has been corrupted by the hands of man. They fail to see that the old is subsumed by the new… and so the Lord seeks to teach them to receive the “new wine” He would pour into their hearts with minds open to the light of God. They do not yet know the joy His disciples experience just being in the presence of the Messiah, the bridegroom of all faithful souls; as yet their hearts have not been circumcised by the nails of the sacrifice He makes in their name. But soon their time will come, we pray. When He is lifted up, perhaps they shall see.
And in our psalm we have David’s verse of Jesus: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Jesus is David’s Lord even then, for Jesus our Savior has always been. Beautifully does David speak of this as well, in the voice of God: “Before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.” As the dew covers the earth unseen before the sun rises, so before the Father pronounced the words “Let there be light” – first bringing the universe into being by the power of His Word – Jesus was eternally present, even as the water the Spirit moved upon.
And so He has “princely power,” seated at the right hand of God. And so He “rule[s] in the midst of His enemies,” His sacrifice destroying the death which seemed to take hold of Him. And so, like the order of Melchizedek, which came well before the institution of the Israelite’s priestly line, from all eternity His salvific priesthood is – and shall last until the end of time.
O LORD, you sent your Son to offer Himself
in our stead;
may we be clothed anew in His grace.
YHWH, the priesthood of your Son is from all eternity and will last until the end of time for the expiation of our sins. And the sacrifice He offers is Himself in the suffering and death He endures in our midst. Though He rules forever at your right hand, He humbles Himself to suffer at our hands that the evil in our hearts might be washed clean by the blood He freely sheds. O let us be made as new wineskins able to receive the grace He pours forth.
Jesus is our Prince who fights our battles and puts all our enemies under His feet. He crushes the head of the devil and destroys all the weakness by which we are beset, and He does this by the weakness He endures and the death He suffers for our sakes. O LORD, let us know the glory He would bring to our poor souls, the salvation wrought by His holy sacrifice, and let us join ourselves to that sacrifice by fasting and doing penance in His stead as long as He is apart from us, until the Day He returns.
Fri, 15 January 2021
(Heb.4:12-16; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mk.2:13-17)
“Nothing is concealed from Him.”
In God’s eyes all men are sinners; this is what His penetrating vision cannot help but see. Yet it is just such sinners as we He has come to call, to call away from our sin. The Pharisees cannot bear this sword of truth to pierce their soul, and so they take up the sword of anger against those who are being redeemed, and He who is redeeming them. Let us not be as these hardened hearts, brothers and sisters, but expose our sin to the Lord’s sharp gaze, that He might heal us by His grace.
That Jesus Himself sees all that is in a man is indicated by His “overhearing the remark” of the complaining Pharisees today, and more clearly elsewhere in His reading their and His disciples’ thoughts without a word being spoken (e.g. Mt.17:25). As nothing is concealed from the Father, so nothing is concealed from the Son: “The reflections and thoughts of the heart” are open to Him. And He knows the troubles that affect each of us. And these, even of the Pharisees, He would heal, even as a wise physician – but we indeed must come with our souls exposed and prepared for surgery.
And though this process can be painful, and though we might say to ourselves, “We are not deserving” – though the questions of the Pharisees might be our own – yet we must witness Jesus’ attitude toward Levi and his fellow tax collectors/sinners. Yet we must see how He defends these from attack, not bringing their shame before them as the Pharisees would, but with a heart set only on forgiveness. For indeed “we have a great high priest,” one who takes our sins upon Himself, one who suffers with us our weakness in order to save us from its consequences. And so with Levi and his friends we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor,” both in the confessional and at the Eucharistic table, for our need He has come to fill with His love.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul”; Jesus is this law made flesh. “The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye”; to remove the darkness of our vision, the all-seeing God has come. “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever,” and as long as we come before Him, trembling for our sin, we shall live on in His love.
Shine your light upon our souls, O Lord,
and remove all darkness from them.
In your grace you make us whole;
with you let us be holy.
O LORD, your Son has come to save us from our sins;
may the light of His Word dispel all darkness
from our souls.
YHWH, let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. For you see into the depths of our hearts; you know well the sin that is within us – yet you are merciful in judging us, desiring only to heal us of our sickness. O let us always come humbly before you to find your blessing upon our souls, that we might ever serve you well with our poor lives!
O mighty God, O all-seeing and all-knowing LORD, let us treasure your Word, your Law, which is as balm for our troubled spirits. Let us welcome your Son to our table that He might feed us with your truth, that we might find wisdom and learn by your grace to live forever in joy in your presence.
How we need your Son, our high priest, as our physician, He who gives Himself to take away our sin. O LORD, may we indeed find your favor through Him, obediently answering His call to salvation.
Thu, 14 January 2021
(Heb.4:1-5,11; Ps.78:3-4,6-8; Mk.2:1-12)
“The promise of entrance into His rest still holds.”
But only those with faith in Him shall be made whole.
Paul says of the Israelites in the desert, “The word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.” Though they had seen “the glorious deeds of the Lord and His strength and the wonders that He wrought,” they yet became “wayward and rebellious, a generation that kept not its heart steadfast nor its spirit faithful to God.” Yet they disobeyed and disbelieved. And so they entered not into His rest; they received not the grace of union with the Lord in His peaceful kingdom, but rather died in the desert in their sin. Thus does Paul warn us not to “fall in imitation of Israel’s unbelief,” but ever to “strive to enter into that rest” God holds for all His faithful.
And the faith necessary to enter God’s rest is illustrated clearly in our gospel today, as is the woe of unbelief. It is “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of those who lowered the paralytic through the ceiling to Him that He said to this poor soul, “My son, your sins are forgiven”; and it is upon hearing these grace-filled words from the Savior’s mouth that some of the scribes, those faithless souls so much the descendants of their faithless fathers, grumbled against Him and accused Him of “blasphemy.” And as the Lord here makes clear the equation of forgiveness and healing (“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’?”), commanding indeed the paralyzed man: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home,” so does this healed soul, washed clean of all his sin, with his companions and all those of faith who stand “awestruck” as they look on… so do these enter God’s rest – even as the scribes gnash their teeth.
Brothers and sisters, “God rested from all His work on the seventh day,” and that rest awaits all at their completion of the Lord’s work in this world. This truth Jesus reveals in our midst even this day. And so we “should put [our] hope in God, and not forget the deeds of God but keep His commands”; for “it is we, who have believed, who enter into that rest,” so long as we keep faith in Him.
O LORD, let us enter into your rest,
that we might rise and carry souls to you.
YHWH, how shall we have our sins forgiven if we have not faith in you and in your Son; how shall we enter into your rest if we turn away from you? We must come to you and to your Son, believing in the salvation wrought by you and letting nothing stand in our way… and you will bless us and gather us into your arms.
O Lord Jesus, forgive us all our sin this day. Cast far from us all that keeps us paralyzed, all that prevents us from rising and following you. Take away our rebellious souls, our unfaithfulness before you – O may we hear your gracious words calling us to stand and walk with you! O may we know the peace of your forgiveness!
O LORD, you are our God, and in you alone we find our rest, we find healing from all our sickness and sin. Help us to be strong in faith ourselves and serve to bring others to you as well. You await our coming to you; let nothing else matter to us at all.
Wed, 13 January 2021
(Heb.3:7-14; Ps.95:6-11; Mk.1:40-45)
“Today, if you should hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.”
Today we see Jesus continuing His healing ministry, and we see how it becomes “no longer possible for [Him] to enter a town openly” because of the public proclamation of His wondrous and powerful works. We see also how, though “He stayed in desert places… people kept coming to Him from all sides,” for His work must be accomplished. But we see most particularly the way we must come to Him to find our own healing.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us,” David sings, calling all to their proper place before God. And this the leper in our gospel does today, indicating indeed to all the attitude we must have toward Jesus, the place we must find at His feet. With soft hearts we must come before our Lord in tears for the sin upon our souls. Not like those in the Egyptian desert can we be, those who “saw [His] works for forty years” yet “tested and tried” Him constantly. This generation indeed He “loathed” in His anger, calling them “a people of erring heart” who “know not [His] ways.” On the contrary, our hearts must burn with a tender love of God and one another as we approach the Lord in the desert where He waits to save us from our sin. He will match any tenderness of our own. “Moved with pity” we shall find Him, ready to gather our broken spirits into His arms.
“Take care, my brothers, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God.” See that your hearts are never “hardened by the deceit of sin.” It is always “today” and the Lord is always calling to your soul, always requiring your life from you – always offering His love to you. Offer your own in return, that you shall not be cast from His presence, that you shall not be ostracized like this leper from the community, but remain ever in His holy fold as “the flock He guides” with His gentle hand… and finally that you might “enter into His rest.” He calls you to healing at His hand; hear and answer on your knees.
O LORD, make our hearts soft and our spirits loving,
as your Son;
let us bow down to Him.
YHWH, let us not be of erring and unfaithful heart but let our love match your own and that of your Son, for He looks on our poor condition with pity and reaches out His hand to heal us of our sin, of our weakness before you. Why should we harden our hearts against Him when all He wishes is to save us? Let us accept and treasure such blessing which comes only from you.
So blind we can easily become, O LORD, so blind to your presence among us and your works done for us. So easily we are led astray; so easily we become deaf to your Word speaking to our hearts. O let our hearts not be hardened! but let us come humbly before you to worship you and call on your holy NAME. This is what brings life to our souls. In this worship alone do we find our rest.
O LORD, set us free from all pride, from all failure to remember your presence before us…. Be not angry with your wayward children but gather us into your loving arms.
Tue, 12 January 2021
(Heb.2:14-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mk.1:29-39)
“Since He Himself was tested through what He suffered,
He is able to help those who are tempted.”
And help them He does. Die for us He must. Each healing is a move of love which takes His life as sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross for us, yes. He opened His arms and let His healing blood pour forth for all “the children of Abraham,” all those of faith. But His whole life, and especially His ministry of preaching and healing, is a dying, is a robbing of “the devil, the prince of death, of his power.” We see clearly in our gospel today how Jesus “free[s] those who through fear of death had been slaves their whole life long,” how He lays down His life for “the whole town [which] was gathered outside the door” of “the house of Simon and Andrew.” After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a debilitating fever, He cures all who press upon Him, all “who were variously afflicted”; from them “the demons He expelled.”
And in these cures, in these expulsions of demons, do we not see our “merciful and faithful high priest” who has come “to expiate the sins of the people” at work in “blood and flesh,” dying for the nation’s salvation? Has the Lord not equated such healing with salvation, declaring there is no difference between forgiving sins and saying “be well” to the troubled soul (Mk.2:9)? And do not these demons desire to cry out that He is the Christ even as He gouges the life from them as He Himself dies? Does their rule not escape them now with every word of the Spirit He speaks? But He does “not permit the demons to speak,” for they would reveal who He is only that He might be tempted to become ruler on earth of these people who would certainly seek to crown Him king. But the salvation He brings rises beyond this dying life, and the Son of God has no relations with the prince of darkness and his lying rule.
And so our Lord “went into [the] synagogues preaching the good news and expelling demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” So He went forth robbing the devil of His reign, suffering and dying all the while, all the way to the cross, where His ministry is accomplished. And we, brothers and sisters, do we not continue His ministry to this day? Has the Lord not left the dying to us now – a cross upon each of His disciples’ backs to fill up what is yet lacking in His sacrifice? Is this not the great gift He gives us? And in His steps, by the apostles’ instruction, in union with His Church, do you walk through the suffering and darkness of this world to the Lord’s eternal light? For your sake has He died. So “seek to serve Him constantly” as He does you.
O LORD, in flesh and blood your Son has come
to drive all demons away from us
and save us from the power of death.
YHWH, your Son has come to heal us, to cast all our sin far from us, releasing us from all power of the devil. Death itself He conquers for our sakes, suffering all the weakness of our human condition that He might free us from its bonds. He has made Himself captive to flesh and blood that we might fly unto the kingdom with Him. And so, let us glorify His Name!
O LORD, how your Son lays down His life as He walks among us, taking our sickness upon Himself. How much He suffers as we come to Him to find our healing – how brokenhearted He is to witness our travail. But He does not turn from His mission or rest in His accomplishments; on He goes from place to place, redeeming all who come to Him. And this path leads inevitably to the Cross, to His death and our freedom from all sin. Let us praise Him for the sacrifice He makes, for His offering His life for our sakes.
Mon, 11 January 2021
(Heb.2:5-12; Ps.8:2,5-9; Mk.1:21-28)
“A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority!”
Thus do the people exclaim at the power of the word which issues forth from the mouth of Christ, into whose hands “all things” have been subjected. The devils see Him and shriek: “I know who you are – the holy one of God!” They know Him and they fear Him, for He has indeed “come to destroy” them and whatever authority they seemed to have. He it is who has come to return man to his rightful “rule over the works of [God’s] hands.” God has “crowned [man] with glory and honor, and put all things under his feet”; and though “at present we do not see all things thus subjected” because of man’s sin, because he has subjected himself to the works of the devil, yet Jesus has come to bring “many sons the glory,” to reveal in His own person the power of God present in all mankind.
And how does the Lord Jesus Christ destroy the devils? How does He redeem man from their clutches, from their possession? By suffering. By dying. Yes, even now we “see Jesus crowned with glory and honor” – the glory and honor to which we are all called – “because He suffered death.” By suffering death He conquered death, and thus any power the devil wielded by its weight upon our souls. And we are free! The devils are cast from us because He has walked among us; He has come into the synagogue and “taught with authority.” And so the pride of the devil is broken, and we see the angels’ place as servants to man as we see the dignity to which men are called in this Son of Man.
And the Lord “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.” Though by our weakness, by our sinfulness, our disobedience, certainly we merit shame – and so, rightly does David cry to God, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” – yet He does care for us, He is mindful of us… He suffers and dies for us, taking our shame upon Himself in His only Son. And what the Lord has earned we should not spurn, but treasure the grace that is ours through our Brother’s sacrifice. Let us put ourselves under His authority that His authority might be our own, and the devil shall be gone.
O LORD, all things are under the authority of your Son,
who came to save us from all evil.
YHWH, what authority is upon your Son! Your own authority, your own glory. He has power over all the earth, and the unclean spirits are subject to His command. There is nothing outside his rule, for His rule is your own.
And through your Son, and through His suffering, this rule, this glory, becomes our own. Since He has come as our Brother, we become your sons with Him. And so, great authority you place upon your children, LORD, upon the men you call forth; for you call us to share in the work of your Son and in His consecration.
Greater than the angels is Jesus, our Savior. O LORD, only He leads us to your glory this day. May we know the blessing that is ours through the Holy One of God and listen to His teaching. Let all men to the ends of the earth hear of His fame and believe in Him, that all might praise Him in the great assembly.
Sun, 10 January 2021
(Heb.1:1-6; Ps.97:1-2,6-7,9; Mk.1:14-20)
“This is the time of fulfillment.”
Brothers and sisters, no longer does God speak to us “in fragmentary and varied ways”; this is “the final age,” in which “He has spoken to us through His Son, whom He has made heir of all things and through whom He first created the universe.” With full voice does He make Himself known now, for “this Son is the reflection of the Father’s being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word.” Jesus is the Christ, and in Him the will of God is fulfilled.
And is it any wonder the disciples “immediately abandoned their nets and became His followers,” that at once they joined Him in “proclaiming the good news of God”? For here is the One they have been waiting for, the voice they have been longing to hear, and what can they do but heed His call to join in speaking the very Word of God? James and John even “abandoned their father Zebedee,” a good man, for the greatest of men, the Son of Man, God Himself, had come to them: their hearts could not resist for here indeed was the pure reflection of their Father in heaven, whom even Zebedee desired above all. (With his blessing we can presume they go, the “nets in order” they leave behind.)
O brothers and sisters, do you know who this is has come into your midst? Do you realize who has joined your race? This Jesus whom the Father deems His Son sits at “the right hand of the Majesty in heaven,” “far superior to the angels,” far superior to all creation, for indeed all creation has come to be through Him, who is one in being with the Father. Here is the heart of our creed, this Jesus, this Christ, who is God Himself, and yet also Man with us. Of His Son the Father says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him,” and indeed “all gods are prostrate before Him.” He is “the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods,” who are no gods at all, unable to stand before the glory of His majesty.
And so should we not bow down to Him? Should we not follow when He calls, “Come after me”? Do we not wish to join with Him who is our salvation, who has “cleansed us from our sins,” on the way that leads to “the reign of God”? Yes, the kingdom of God has come to us in the Person of Jesus the Son; there is nothing more to wait upon. The time has come. Let us now follow Him.
O LORD, let us worship your Son in His glory;
let us follow Him unreservedly this day.
YHWH, let us abandon all things to follow your Son; with the angels let us bow down and worship Him. For He is the pure reflection of your Being all our hearts have been hoping to see, and so let us answer His call for our lives.
O LORD, you are the Most High over all the earth and your Son has joined you at your right hand. His glory is far above anything of Heaven or earth, for His glory is your own – and that glory He would bring to each of us, if we would but turn from our sins and set our hearts on His reign. O let us worship Him!
Speak to us this day, O LORD, through your only Son; call us to His side that we might do your will and rejoice in your glory. Let us not be deaf to His powerful Word but be transformed by its proclamation and find the time of fulfillment at hand. Alleluia!
Fri, 8 January 2021
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.3:22-30)
“The Son of God has come and has given us discernment
to recognize the One who is true.”
John’s disciples had difficulty recognizing “the One who is true.” They saw everyone “flocking to Him” and away from their master, so they came to their master questioning. But John was forthright: “I am not the Messiah,” he said, “I am sent before Him.” And now that He has come, the Baptist’s joy is complete.
Brothers and sisters, “we know that we belong to God, while the whole world is under the evil one.” “We are in the One who is true.” Jesus has brought us to such knowledge. And this knowledge, this reality of the eternal life of God, should make us rejoice with our psalmist. It should make our lives ones of thanksgiving in which we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “with timbrel and harp.” For, yes, “the Lord loves His people” and we are His faithful who “exult in glory.” Let us “be glad in [our] maker.”
The world is under sin, and there is deadly sin which destroys the soul lurking in the world. The devil is real as well, and will not simply go away. And though only God can cast him away ultimately, we can pray against much of his work in this world, “petition[ing] God,” interceding for our brothers who falter in sin that is not deadly… and finding their release through the grace of God. With this “confidence in God: that He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will,” we have a great gift and a great strength in this dark world – we can bring light to it, the light of the only Son. But we must always be as “the body” He adorns “with victory.” We must have the same attitude as the Lord’s “best man,” and say with the Baptist, “He must increase while I must decrease.” We must find our joy in Him and not in our works or in our pride. He is all and He is true, and He leads us to the kingdom in His baptism in water and the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, we must see the grace we have in our midst. Jesus is ours.
O LORD, let us remain in you
and rejoice at the coming of your Son.
YHWH, in Baptism we are begotten by you and protected from all sin and selfishness. Let what you have begun in us become complete – let all sin be taken from us that we might rejoice forever in your presence.
O LORD, let our joy be complete. Now that your Son has come and drawn us into His flesh and blood, now that He has cleansed us from our sins and made us whole again, let us decrease as He increases within us, until He is all in all in us… until we exult in the glory of your kingdom.
O LORD, let all your children praise your holy NAME and sing of the grace upon all the lowly ones of God. O true God, let us be your own, born again in your Son, in the Spirit upon Him. And we shall be ready even to die with Him that we might find new life in Him with all our brothers and sisters.
Save us from sin, dear LORD, and let us live in your glory.
Thu, 7 January 2021
(1Jn.5:5-13; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.5:12-16)
“Whoever possesses the Son possesses life.”
What does our psalmist mean when he sings: “He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat He fills you,” but that we are in Christ? What are those “borders” but the flesh of Christ? What is this wheat but the manna, the Sacrament of His Body He gives us to feed upon during our earthly journey? And this word which “runs swiftly,” what is it but the Spirit which enlivens the Body of Christ, which brings the flesh of Christ to life? And why should we not “glorify the Lord,” the God of life, who provides His Son and His Spirit, who makes the world and all that is in it, who calls us to believe, as the human beings we are, in the name of the Son, that we might find all three who testify to truth and “are of one accord”?
It is through the Son we come to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God the Father, we believe “the testimony He has given on His own Son’s behalf,” and we find the eternal life that is thus ours through the Son. May the Spirit run quickly to us and teach us and guide us along the way of God.
In our gospel Jesus heals a leper. He reaches out His hand “to touch him” and so draws him into Himself, into the borders of His holy flesh, and he is made whole. He wills it so, that the bars of all our gates be strengthened, that all enter into Him – that we be healed, whole in Him, and that our children, the fruit of our own bodies be blessed by their truly being begotten therefore of Him. If we are in Him, so will our children be, so will all the works we perform. But we must come as the leper, “bowed down to the ground.” We, too, must see Jesus and be moved to humble ourselves before His loving glory. In faith we, too, must desire His touch upon our flesh, to be released from all sin, to be made whole again. And we must do as He instructs us through the power of the Spirit; then we shall find life with the Father in heaven.
If it is remarkable that the Son of God would draw the leprous man into His sacred flesh and make him His own, it is perhaps more remarkable that He would do the same for us poor sinners – that being possessed by Him, we possess Him, and so we enter life by the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, let all men know
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth and the touch of your hand, we are healed of all our ills; your Son has come to save us. He is all we need to find eternal life – let Him live within us.
You testify, O LORD, by the word of the Spirit that Jesus is your beloved Son and we should believe in Him. Your testimony let us embrace in faith that the life you desire for us we may know.
Your Word of truth runs swiftly, LORD, and brings peace to our gates and borders. Our very flesh is anointed in your Son – in Him your Spirit is upon us. And we are blessed as your children; we are made whole in your sight. Let your Word run to all the world, that all might know of the glory you bring us in Jesus your only Son, in the water upon Him and in His sacrificial blood. In faith let all bow down before Him, seeking a word from His mouth and the touch of His hand.
Wed, 6 January 2021
(1Jn.4:19-5:4; Ps.72:1-2,11,14-15,17; Lk.4:14-22)
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today the Son has come into our midst. Today He has “unrolled the scroll” of the Word of God and read aloud the words written of Him for all to hear. Today the WORD is brought to life. As “appealing” as is the discourse which flows forth from His gracious lips, so much greater is the Spirit that is upon Him. For by that Spirit and in His sacred flesh He shall “bring glad tidings to the poor… proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.” In word and deed He “announce[s] a year of favor from the Lord.” In Him all time comes together. In Him it is all one moment. And this moment reveals the love of God.
And by the Son we are begotten, by His love: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.” And so, children we become with the one Child most blessed. And if we are all one child born of the love of God and His Word, what can we do but love one another? Does one not love his own flesh and bone? And so, “whoever loves God must also love his brother,” for his brother is of him as he is of God and both are His children in love, born of the flesh of the one Christ.
“In Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” It is not for the few He has come, but for all. For God is the Father of all and the Son possesses and reveals all that is of the Father. “All nations shall proclaim His happiness,” for all peoples shall find their happiness in Him alone, who is love and which love is itself our happiness and our hope.
Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Work through us, dear God. Let your Commandment of love be fulfilled in us. Let our love be fixed on God and let us love our brother. May we hear the words you speak in our midst today. May your Spirit make us children of the Father.
O LORD, Jesus is the Christ;
your Spirit is upon Him and He has come to save us –
let us declare His praise.
YHWH, your Word is fulfilled in Jesus and in the Spirit upon Him. Glad tidings the poor hear from His blessed lips, and we who are blind may now see your glorious presence in our midst. From our prisons let us be released, that we might love as Jesus loves.
If we remain in your Son, we will be able to keep your commands and so be blessed forever. You will give us power to conquer the world, to conquer the world even as He has done. O LORD, in Him may our lives be governed with justice, that our mouths might bless you all our days.
O LORD, if we keep our eyes and ears and hearts fixed on Jesus, we will know your love and be able to share in that love. Truly we will love you and our brother, and every blessing will be ours by the grace upon your Son. Your Name be praised by the tongues of men for all the goodness He brings us
Tue, 5 January 2021
(1Jn.4:11-18; Ps.72:1-2,10,12-13; Mk.6:45-52)
“If we love one another, God dwells in us,
and His love is brought to perfection in us.”
Jesus has just fed the five thousand men with the five loaves and two fish. He has performed a great miracle before the eyes of His disciples and through their hands. Yet “their minds were completely closed to the meaning of the events,” and when He comes walking toward them on the water in the middle of the night as their boat is tossed about by a storm, they are “terrified.” They are afraid because they are not yet perfect. John tells us in his first letter, a letter of love: “Love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid” and “perfect love casts out all fear.” The disciples will not be perfect, will remain afraid, until after the death and resurrection of the Lord, and, really, until Pentecost, when the Spirit falls upon them. As John states, “The way we know we remain in Him and He in us is that He has given us of His Spirit.”
His Spirit is the Spirit of love and He, our Lord Jesus, is Himself love. John follows both the clauses, “If we love one another” and “When anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,” with the statement that God dwells in us. Jesus and love are equated as the Spirit and love are equated above. Why? Because “God is love” and both Jesus and the Spirit are God, and so are love.
Brothers and sisters, our love must be brought to perfection, and it is “brought to perfection in this: that we should have confidence on the day of judgment” – that we should have no fear of the punishment we deserve, that we know fully of His love. Jesus takes a step to preparing the disciples against the judgment, against fear and for love, by walking toward them on the water. He means to teach them that they should not be afraid of the wind and the waves which rock our boat in this world, nor should they be afraid of His miraculous, overwhelmingly loving presence. Let us learn what Jesus would teach the disciples: “Do not be afraid!” “For He shall rescue the poor man when he cries out.” He is love and He will save us. Let our minds open to His presence as we love one another, and let that love be brought to absolute perfection in us. May His Spirit be with you.
O LORD, your Son has come among us as a Man –
how can we recognize His glory in our midst;
how can we love as He has loved?
YHWH, why should we be afraid of your love, of your glory among us? Why would we rather remain in darkness than come into your light? Why can we not believe that your Son has walked among us and that He invites us to become one with you? How can our hearts bear such blessing?
O LORD, cast all the fear from us; let us not shrink from your presence, from your overwhelming love, but welcome it in our hearts with gratitude and a return of love to you and others. Let it be our desire to be saved and so glorify Jesus’ coming into our midst. Let Him enter our boat this day, and with Him let us remain.
Dwell within us, O LORD God. Dwell within us and rule over us with your justice and love. Hear us as we cry out to you; have pity on our afflicted souls. Speak to us: “Do not be afraid!” and open our eyes to your eternal protection.
Mon, 4 January 2021
(1Jn.4:7-10, Ps.72:1-4,7-8,11; Mk.6:34-44)
“Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace,
till the moon be no more.”
Our psalm (of Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom) relates the infinite justice of God, He who “defend[s] the afflicted among the people” and “save[s] the children of the poor.” Such is the judgment of our God, who “rule[s] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth”: His perfect justice He showers upon all.
And how is this justice effected? It is already evident from what we have said, from what our psalmist has sung of His Name, and our letter from John leaves no question – “God is love.” His ultimate justice and love have been “revealed in our midst in this way: He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him.” In sending Jesus “as an offering for our sins,” His perfect love and perfect justice meet and kiss and become one. He bleeds for us, and so our sins are forgiven.
And what clearer proof that we all “have life through Him” is shown in our gospel, in which Jesus feeds the masses. First He teaches them with the Word “at great length.” Having pity on them, He feeds their souls with Truth. But His pity does not end there – His concern extends to the physical as well as the spiritual… for He knows all our weakness, and He feeds the peoples’ bodies as well as their souls.
What a beautiful picture this is: the people “neatly arranged like flower beds,” Jesus raising the bread to heaven and pronouncing the blessing, the disciples distributing it, and Jesus Himself dividing the fish among them. All eat and all are satisfied. Here is a picture of the Lord’s justice and love. And this scene we enact each day at Mass, listening to His Word, His teaching, and then eating the bread of life He distributes among us. May the Lord be praised!
And what have we to do to receive this bread of life but heed the words John offers and “love one another.” For “love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.” And this knowledge we find in our love is that His justice is true and endures forever in the perfect peace His presence brings. Let us have faith forever.
O LORD, you sent your Son
to shepherd all afflicted and fainting souls;
may we be nourished by His love.
YHWH, you send your Son to rule over us with His love, to feed us with His own Body and Blood. May justice flower in His day and all the ends of the earth be blessed with His peace. And let us love as He has loved; let us lay down our lives for one another.
O LORD, upon your holy mountain let us take our rest, our souls arranged like flower beds, our hearts yielding to your Word. May your rule be made complete even in this deserted place where men are as sheep without a shepherd. To this place let your Son come and make it as your eternal home. Give us something to eat this day, LORD, by the hand of Jesus and His apostles, or we shall faint for weariness, or we shall starve to death.
It is only your love which sustains us, LORD, only our being joined to you. May we eat our fill of your goodness, and never be apart from your reign.
Sun, 3 January 2021
(1Jn.3:22-4:6; Ps.2:7-8,10-11; Mt.4:12-17,23-25)
“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh
belongs to God.”
And for every spirit that acknowledges Him, He answers all prayers: “Whatever we ask we shall receive at God’s hands.” “Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance…” And so, when “they carried to [Jesus] all those afflicted with various diseases and racked with pain,” He heard this prayer made in faith, made in the belief that He could do this, and as Matthew so simply and wonderfully states, “He cured them all.” They had listened to His preaching: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They accepted it, humbly, taking no offense at His words and His actions – but believing in Him. And so He could perform such wonders for them, He whose spirit is true; and so “on those who inhabit a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
And now we should “give heed” and “take warning”; now we should “put the spirits to the test to see if they belong to God.” Now we must clearly acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and know what John tells us, “There is in you One greater than there is in the world,” and follow that Spirit within us. Are we “keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight”? Do we “remain in Him”? He is never far away and He will hear all of our prayers and cure us of all ills, if we but believe in Him, if we but heed His teaching – if we reform our lives. We show our belief in Him when we follow His commandments, and we follow His commandments when we reform our lives. Thus we prove that we speak His language; in our love we reveal His Spirit in us.
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you.’” Even in our psalm are spoken the words of the Father to Jesus; and they are spoken to us, if we believe that He is the Christ. This is the salvation the Father offers; it is for us to accept it and live it. For a greater gift we cannot expect, more love He could not show – this is His Son, this is God… believe in Him. There is nothing else you need seek.
O LORD, all those who seek the truth
come to your Son,
and you make them your children.
YHWH, we shall be healed of every ill; all darkness will be banished from our midst, if we turn from our sins, if we seek to reform our lives – if we believe in the Name of your Son, that He has come in the flesh and is our Savior. And then our every prayer shall be answered, for we shall be living in your love.
It is not of the world we are to be, O LORD, not of the darkness of this place. For the world does not recognize that Jesus has come, nor has it ears to hear Him. But our ears are attuned to His voice and the truth He speaks to our heart. Let us not be deceived by those who would deny the truth, those who would speak against what is plainly before them. Let us hold fast to the teaching of your Son and His apostles, and we shall have power to overcome all such evil by His love.
Give us all we ask of you, LORD; give us a world remade in your image.
Fri, 1 January 2021
(1Jn.2:22-28; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.1:19-28)
“Remain in the Son and in the Father.”
In our gospel John the Baptist tells the priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees, “There is… one who is to come after me – the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.” This Messiah has come, “The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice,” David proclaims in our psalm, and continues to invite us to sing praise of Him. It is the anointing that comes from Jesus that John, in our first reading, encourages us to hold on to, for it is true and leads invariably to the Father of all.
We must come to the Father; we must find ourselves in the presence of all truth, in the hands of our Creator, who loves us beyond all telling. And the way to the presence of the Father, in whom we find our true home, is Jesus the Christ. He is the Son and the only one who can lead us to the Father, for He and the Father are inextricably one. We cannot deny the Sonship of Jesus, His oneness with the Father – that He is the Christ, upon whom all true anointing rests – and come to know God. Jesus is the means the Father provides to come to Him; it is through Him alone we find the promise of eternal life. We must “remain in Him,” that we may “not retreat in shame at His coming.”
Those who do not believe in Jesus, who do not recognize Him as the only Son and so only way to the Father, are not to be persecuted – but they are not to be believed. Jesus is all. Those who know Him know this; they indeed have His anointing in their hearts. This “anointing teaches [us] about all things and is true.” It is this knowledge of His salvation, of His glory, which John instructs us to remember: His Word grows in our hearts. But again, this Word is not a weapon for the persecution and destruction of others – it is the means for the manifestation of light.
Remain in Jesus, brothers and sisters, and eternal life with the Father will be assured you.
O LORD, help us always
to proclaim Jesus as the Christ.
YHWH, we must indeed acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, as your only Son, as God Himself, and rejoice that your saving power has come to us through Him. And His anointing will rest upon us, the Holy Spirit will be with us to guide us in all things – we will be one with you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John has prepared His way and in the sight of the nations His glory has been revealed. None can deny His divinity, except he be a liar. And to these we must not listen, LORD, but only to the teaching of your Church. For upon your apostles rests the anointing that is from above, and if we are to find our way to eternal life, no other voice should we heed.
John has indeed cried out the way we all must follow if we are to meet your Son and so you, Father. O LORD, let us listen to the Spirit that is upon him.
Wed, 30 December 2020
(1Jn.2:18-21; Ps.96:1-2,11-13; Jn.1:1-18)
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
And we must dwell with Him, remaining in His light, walking in His way. “Through Him all things came into being,” and we who have come into being by Him, “who believe in His name,” must “become children of God.”
In our first reading, John warns against the antichrists who come in this “final hour” to lead astray all those not founded in truth. Elsewhere he warns against anyone who does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as the Christ come among us. Certainly there are more than a few antichrists today, looking to distract believers from “the Holy One.” But as John says, “All knowledge is yours”: if we believe in Jesus, we have the truth written within us. Yet we must beware of faltering, for “no lie has anything in common with the truth.” Remain in His Church.
Our psalm of David encourages us to “exult before the Lord,” to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” And well we should this holy day to know of the Christ that has come “to rule the world with justice.” The Word has become flesh and left His flesh and His Spirit with the Church He has founded on the apostles – great is the joy of those who find their home there.
And in our gospel we hear John’s beautiful and clear explication of the divinity of Jesus, the Word ever in God’s presence from the beginning, the Word that is “God.” There are pseudo-religious that change the evangelist’s words to say that the Word was “a god”; such is the work of the antichrists spoken of by Paul. For only in the clear recognition of Jesus as “God the only Son,” only in the unequivocal proclamation of His divinity – that He is God – is salvation found. For this is Truth, Truth brings light, and the light has no discourse with the darkness of lies.
Come to Him who has come unto you, brothers and sisters. Seeing Him you see God and know God. And knowing God you “know the truth” and so exult in the joy of His presence in His Word, in His Sacraments, in His Church… in His love. Praised be the Lord and His dwelling among us.
O LORD, you have revealed yourself to us
in the presence of your only Son –
let us live in the truth that He is God.
YHWH, thank you for the truth you have given us, the glory you have revealed through your only Son. Your Word has become flesh and so your very light shines now in our midst – may we embrace Him and His love.
Though surrounded by the darkness of lies, we find our way to your truth, O LORD, by your Son and the Holy Spirit with whom we are anointed through Him. Now we know the truth and are gifted with all knowledge therefore – let us exult in the gift of life you provide.
Whoever does not acknowledge your Son does not know you, Father, and does not have the Holy Spirit. Let us know well Him whom you have sent and bless His Name among ourselves. Praise and glory belong to Him alone for He alone reveals your glory. O let this light shine in the hearts of all men, of all who would rejoice in your presence.
Tue, 29 December 2020
(1Jn.2:12-17; Ps.96:7-11; Lk.2:36-40)
“The world with its seductions is passing away
but the man who does God’s will endures forever.”
Upon what is your eye fixed? Do you seek the Lord as has Anna these many years, “constantly in the temple, worshiping day and night in fasting and prayer,” or are you seduced by “carnal allurements, enticements for the eye, the life of empty show.” Indeed, “all these are from the world” (and what appropriate description of the extreme vanity which grasps the world in this day), and indeed are all passing away into the nothingness from which they spring. And those whose hearts are fixed upon them shall pass away with them, while he whose heart seeks the Lord passes to the eternal life of heaven.
“Give to the Lord the glory due His name!” David exclaims in his psalm today, and, yes, much glory is due Him. “Through His Name [our] sins have been forgiven”; through Him we “have conquered the evil one.” Do you know “Him who is from the beginning”? Does “the word of God [remain] in you”? Is it His love you have, or love for the world, wherein His love finds no place to dwell? “The Lord is King,” brothers and sisters. He alone is worthy of our worship, worthy of our attention, worthy of our praise. Waste not your breath on the empty illusions of this passing world.
Anna “gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.” Do you look forward to such deliverance? Do you care to hear of the glory of the Lord spoken of by this prophetess? Or have you better things to do? What sporting event, television program, or party takes precedence in your life?
We live in a vain world, brothers and sisters. And that vanity permeates this modern society, presenting itself as an accepted good. It is not easy to conquer the hold such illusions cast upon our waiting eyes – only in Jesus will you find the strength to overcome these seductions. As “the child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God… upon Him,” so will you learn to make progress as you “tremble before Him”; so will you grow in His will to eternal life, as you turn away from the carnality of this life. Keep your eyes upon His light, rising from the darkness.
O LORD, let our hearts be set
on worship of you and your Son
and not on the things of this world.
YHWH, you are from the beginning; may your grace be upon us that we might conquer the evil one and endure with you forever. The world is indeed passing away – let us not pass with it.
O LORD, help us to do your will each day and at every hour. Teach us to remain in your Temple always and so be joined to you. If we worship you constantly, you will come quickly to save us – you send your Son to deliver Jerusalem, to comfort all who look to you.
How strong are the allurements of the world the devil presents to our weak flesh! How easily we give in to such distractions, LORD. Let it be your courts alone our hearts are set upon – help us to turn from darkness to your marvelous light.
In you we are made firm, and in your Son. With Him let us grow, O LORD, that we might indeed be your children and remain ever with you. Praise to you, O living God! Let us heed the words of your prophets and apostles.
Mon, 28 December 2020
(1Jn.2:3-11; Ps.96:1-3,5-6,11; Lk.2:22-35)
“The way we can be sure we are in union with Him
is if one who claims to abide in Him
conducts himself just as He did.”
“The darkness is over and the real light begins to shine,” and we must live in that light.
“My eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all peoples to see,” declares Simeon in his prophecy over the Christ child. “In accord with the dictate in the law of the Lord,” though He Himself is God, Mary and Joseph dutifully bring Jesus to the temple to be “consecrated to the Lord” as every first-born male must. And there the “just and pious” Simeon who so patiently “awaited the consolation of Israel,” the coming of “the Anointed of the Lord,” takes the child “in his arms” and blesses God for His gift, His mercy.
Learn from these the attitude all must have. In their faithful observance of the commands of God and the inspiration of the Spirit, they fulfill His Word. And so light dawns for us and we know of its presence in our midst. Now we must continue to “announce His salvation, day after day tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Our deeds must mirror His deeds; His light, “a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of [His] people Israel,” we must shine. The sign has come; the new commandment which has been of old must now be realized in each of us. As a sword has pierced the heart of the Blessed Mother, so it shall pierce the heart of everyone who unites himself to the Blessed Child, who follows in the steps of our blessed Lord.
“The thoughts of many hearts [shall] be laid bare.” There will be no hiding from this light that has come. If you think you can claim to know Him “without keeping His commandments,” without conducting yourself “just as He did,” you must know that your lie will be exposed. “The man who continues in the light is the one who loves his brother.” Only this will save you, for only love is of light; hatred is only of darkness, and in the Lord there is no darkness.
Let us join with Simeon in proclaiming His salvation. Let us join with David in singing of the “splendor and majesty” of the Lord. “Praise and grandeur are in His sanctuary.” And let us do this principally with our very lives, becoming as the temple of God who is presented to us this day.
O LORD, let the light of your Son
be revealed to our eyes, and in our actions.
YHWH, your light be revealed in us this day as it was revealed in your Son to the eyes of Simeon. May Jesus live in us and we shine His glory forth, that your Word may indeed be fulfilled in all our lives.
We are in darkness, LORD. As we keep not your Word, your Law, your command to love, we stray from right paths and become blind to your presence. If we do not live your presence, if we do not do your will, how can we claim to be of you? How can we say we are your disciples if we do not do the things your Son has done?
Take us from the shadows, LORD, and reveal to our eyes the presence of Christ in our midst. Dispel all the dark of hatred and doubt and error by this unending light you shine upon us. And let us truly be transformed by the light of our Savior that we might announce His salvation every day of our lives until our last breath on this earth. Then let us live with you forever.
Wed, 23 December 2020
(2Sm.7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29; Lk.1:67-79)
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever.”
The Lord builds a house for us; He is that House.
“Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations,” the Lord promises David, and accomplishes His word by Himself entering the line of the king. Thus “He has visited and ransomed His people. He has raised a horn of saving strength for us in the house of David His servant” in the Person of Jesus the Christ. And so we shall find “freedom from [our] sins” and “the kindness of our God” shall remain upon us.
“To guide our feet into the way of peace,” Jesus has come. To bring “salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all our foes,” He stands among us. Zechariah’s joy at the birth of John, his son, is really the joy in the coming one, for whom John but “prepare[s] straight paths.” The Spirit inspires this old priest to sing primarily of the fulfillment of the promise long held by his people, the promise of Abraham, the promise of David – the promise of finding fulfillment as God’s chosen ones, held in His hand, in His temple, in His house, and protected from all harm while worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. This Jesus accomplishes.
And so, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight,” for no greater gift have we than this opportunity for holiness in the one true Son of God and in the House He establishes. Should not the Church be our home? Has not the Lord provided for the building of its walls? Has He not provided His own flesh and blood to be spread upon its altar? Has He not “fix[ed] a place for [His] people Israel… that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance”? Has He not said, “My kindness is established forever,” and “in heaven… confirmed [His] faithfulness”? And should we not enter His house, enter His heaven, and praise His holy Name?
Here we stand, with His Word, with His Body and Blood. Here we have His teaching and His food. What more need we? And this day the Child who is the House of God approaches. Are we ready now for His coming?
O LORD, guide our feet in the way of peace;
fulfill your promise and make us your sons.
YHWH, we sit in darkness waiting for the coming of your Son; open our eyes to see His light and our mouths to sing of His glory. Let us enter into His way of peace. Deliver us from the enemy, O LORD, from the sin upon our souls.
How shall we be made free of our sins, LORD, except that you come to us and fulfill your Covenant with us, that you shall be our Father and we your children? And how shall you accomplish this except by the birth of your Son in our midst? We would have remained ever blind and dumb had Jesus not come to open our eyes and loose our tongues, had you not had such mercy on our souls.
A House you established for David, a place we all may dwell. And the birth of this House is upon us now. May we enter in and serve Him, LORD, that with Him we might stand firm forever.
Tue, 22 December 2020
(Mal.3:1-4,23-24; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14,Lk.21:28; Lk.1:57-66)
“His name is John.”
Yes, “the hand of the Lord [was] upon him,” whose name signifies the grace of God, who comes at the end of the age to turn men’s hearts back to God, who prepares the way we must walk to find the instruction and purgation of the Lord.
We must be purified by “the refiner’s fire.” We must be purged of all dross “like gold or like silver that [we] may offer due sacrifice to the Lord,” that we might be called children of the One God. The Day is coming; the Lord is returning to the temple, and we must be prepared to welcome Him – and so John is born, sent in the spirit of Elijah the prophet to cry out the way in the wilderness of this world. By the Spirit of the Lord, he “shows sinners the way; he guides the humble to justice,” leading them to the Son who stands ready in Truth to teach and to save. Well do the people do to wonder at the birth of this holy child, for well will they do to follow his exhortation, and come to praise of the living God.
This John leads us to something new, as even the originality of his name among his relatives signifies; he assists us in making the turn, the conversion to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. From the Old and as a prophet of old, he leads us to the dawn of new light in this world. Jesus he comes to proclaim. Without this grace of God to be washed in the river of our sins, how could we stand on “the great and terrible day” of the Lord’s coming? How could we bear His light, His fire?
“All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy toward those who keep His covenant and His decrees.” Praise God we have the instruction of the Lord with us now to guide us to life everlasting; and thank God we have been made ready by “the messenger of the covenant” to stand in the light of that wisdom. The Lord teaches us now, brothers and sisters; the Lord is with us to instruct us in His way and, “like the fuller’s lye,” to make us white. Let us not make the grace of forgiveness John has wrought by the hand of God among us come to naught – let us listen closely now to the Word of God to which his voice has led us.
P.S. Re the Bible, the Word of God – a quote by St. Hippolytus from today’s Office: “Sacred Scripture is God’s gift to us and it should be understood in the way He intends: we should not do violence to it by interpreting it according to our own preconceived ideas.”
O LORD, you brought John to birth
to prepare the way of your only Son –
let us walk that path to you.
YHWH, your hand was upon John for our good, to prepare the way for your Son, that we might be prepared to receive the glory of His presence among us. This day may our hearts be ready for His coming.
Sinners you show the way, O LORD; you mark out the path we all should tread if we wish to be cleansed of all evil and turn our hearts to you. You are our Father, and all we should desire is to love you – O LORD, lead us in the way to you.
Your Son is the way, dear LORD. It is by Him on His terrible Day that we are purged of all dross in the fire of the Holy Spirit and so made pure to stand before you. O holy God, let us be refined like silver or gold that we might shine so brightly in your presence. By your grace only is this accomplished; let all be made new by your hands.
Mon, 21 December 2020
(1Sm.1:24-28; 1Sm.2:1,4-8; Lk.1:46-56)
“His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.”
The Magnificat of Mary mirrors but, if I may say, far surpasses the Canticle of Hannah in beauty, in wonder, in grace… even as the perfection of the Son she bears far exceeds the blessing of the prophet Samuel. As Jesus brings to fulfillment the greatness of all who came before Him, so Mary’s song expresses that perfection in the light of the same divine mercy.
Mercy indeed is infused in each line she utters under the power of the Spirit. Mercy and truth, a love completely open to the blessings of God is hers and is revealed in the words which fall like cleansing rain from her immaculate lips. She is blessed, she knows, and she shall be called blessed; for the truth, the Word of God, cannot be hidden, must be raised to meet the eyes and ears of all who seek His grace. For “the hungry He [gives] every good thing,” and the lowly He raises “to high places.” She is “His servant in her lowliness” and the joy of such blessing she cannot help but proclaim with all her being.
Hannah brings the child she has conceived in answer to her prayer, through the intercession of Eli – by the grace of God – and dedicates him to the Lord, leaving him at the temple. She, too, “exults in the Lord” for the fact that, in the Lord’s will, “the barren wife bears seven sons”; for she who was thought sterile has borne the great man of God, Samuel. Mary, in her grateful appreciation for the blessing upon her, will not need to leave her child at the temple, for He has been conceived entirely of the Holy Spirit and is Himself the Temple of the Lord, wholly dedicated to the will of the Father from before the inception of time.
As the ancient Israelites found the direction and guidance of God through the ministry of Samuel, as by him they were led to serve the Lord their God, so now in this the end of the age we have Jesus, the perfect light of guidance through the grace and mercy of God, to lead us to the total service of the Lord that Mary embodies so well. God is “mighty,” brothers and sisters; “holy is His name.” Let us rejoice in Him who “has upheld Israel His servant, ever mindful of His mercy,” and let us make that same blessed mercy the leaven that lifts us unto heaven. To Him let us sing our song of praise.
O LORD, Mary you have blessed
with your very presence,
and so she has become the Temple in which you dwell –
may we all become as your Temple.
YHWH, to the humble you show your mercy; you raise them up to dwell with you. Our Mother Mary is the humblest of our race, and so she is at your side forever in Heaven. O may we be blessed as she!
Hannah, too, you blessed, O LORD, she who had borne no children. Samuel, the man of God, you gave to her, for she had promised to give him to you. But the Son of Mary who could give to you, for He is with you always? Let us be with Him this very day, that we might remain in your Temple.
O LORD, the proud and the mighty you tear down that they might know they are of the earth. But the meek and humble you raise to high places, even to your presence. Let us leave behind all the riches of this world; help us to escape the trap they are to us, the death they spell to our souls, that with the lowly we might dwell, in your eternal kingdom. O let your servants live!
Sun, 20 December 2020
(Sgs.2:8-14 or Zep.3:14-18; Ps.33:1-3,11-12,20-21; Lk.1:39-45)
“Let me see you, let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – she who comes bearing the Christ child, she whose very voice magnifies the presence of the Lord. Listen to the witness of Elizabeth: “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy.” Mary carries the Son of God not only in her womb, but in her soul; the Spirit working within her serves to inspire him who shall go before the Lord, and so she paves the road the forerunner of Jesus shall tread.
How one are mother and child! Never so evident has it been than in this passage from Holy Scripture. For Mary’s voice carries the very presence of Jesus, and Elizabeth’s ears convey that presence to her child. Here is that relationship of love depicted in our reading from the Song of Songs exemplified most clearly; here is the oneness of lover and beloved. And the loveliness of the lover becomes the loveliness of the beloved; the blessing of the Child becomes the blessing of the Mother – and in this love the earth brings forth its fruit.
“The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst,” and He blesses all with His presence. He calls to your soul to come forth and know His love. “Springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills,” He hastens to your side. He visits you. He visits you, speaking to your heart, calling you to arise and join Him. As Mary visits Elizabeth, “proceeding in haste into the hill country,” to bring her Son to the son of Elizabeth and so producing joy in this unborn child’s heart – so she brings her sweet Jesus to us this day, her voice speaking of His glory to the ears of Mother Church.
And so she becomes our Mother; and so she becomes our lover, for she bears the great lover of all souls to wed Himself to us as He is so perfectly wed to her. His sweetness comes to us through His “beautiful one,” causing our hearts to rejoice at the sound of her voice and leading us to sing songs of praise to His holy name. Let us raise the joyful shout to our God!
O LORD, in joy with Mary,
help us to bring Jesus to every waiting soul.
YHWH, should we not rejoice at the coming of your Son? He comes to us across the hills in the womb of His Mother: should His approach not fill us with expectation and wonder, with joy in the Holy Spirit? And should we not cry out that joy with the Baptist and his mother?
She who secluded herself for five months is now in her sixth, and now your Son comes to her. And what has lain dormant within her womb springs to life at the sound of the voice of His Mother. O LORD, are we not just so in need of your Spirit to awaken in us the love that has been dormant these many days? Do we not begin to doubt your gifts to us as we long to see them fulfilled, as we sit this day in darkness? And will you not come to us in your Son, in His Mother who carries Him to our side – she who is your perfect Bride?
You desire to rejoice over us, O dearest LORD and God, and so our misfortunes you take away, and so the darkness of winter you dispel. Even we who are aged in sin you find beautiful. May our loveliness match your own. May our voice be pleasing to you.
Fri, 18 December 2020
(Jgs.13:2-7,24-25; Ps.71:3-6,8,16-17; Lk.1:5-25)
“From my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
How the above line from our psalm is reflected both in Samson and in John, and how parallel are the lives of these two great men. Of John it is said, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb”; of Samson, “This boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb” and “The Spirit of the Lord began to be with him.” The birth of both is announced by an angel of the Lord. Both will be born of women who were barren. Both will be nazirites, who shall “never drink wine or strong drink,” and whose head “no razor shall touch.” Both come for the deliverance of the people, though Samson only from “the power of the Philistines” while John comes to “prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed,” that we might have eternal salvation.
Of course, Jesus, too, will have His birth announced by the angel of the Lord; He will be born of a woman from whom it seems no child could come – a consecrated virgin – and this of the Holy Spirit, who is with Him even before time. His is a new testament, however, signified by His birth of a woman of youth and not old age. Though hailed by the old, He brings the newness of God into our midst. His birth fulfills all the births and words and wisdom of the prophets and judges and kings of the Old Testament.
But, returning to our psalm and its universal call in the voice of Christ (words which apply to all in their quest for God), we should remember today that for all, God is our “rock of refuge” on whom we “depend from birth.” “You have taught me from my youth,” the psalmist declares to the Lord, and so it should be true with us all that from the womb “till the present [we] proclaim [His] wondrous deeds.” He works in all our lives, brothers and sisters; He has brought us all to birth and is acting now, His Spirit upon us, to see that we are born into His kingdom.
The great figures of the Old Testament, and especially John, are models from whom we can all learn, holy men whom we can certainly admire. But as our Lord has stated clearly, none of those born of woman can compare with those born into the kingdom of heaven. And so, let us take our strength for our journey from His prophets and from His Word; from His Spirit let us receive what we need in this life for our journey to His paradise. As strong as were Samson and John, so much stronger can we now be by His Body and His Blood, our holy food on this earth, and by His Spirit upon us.
O LORD, it is you who give us life
and make us strong –
your Spirit be with us.
YHWH, your power is upon the mothers of both Samson and John, and so upon their sons. They are born by your will to bring deliverance to the people. As they trusted in you from the womb, so let us be blessed to know you, LORD; let us be blessed to do your will.
Strength we should all take in you, O LORD, for you teach us from our youth to this day: the moment we turn to you, you come to us, and from our souls you would never take your leave. O let us trust in you, that in our lives your works might be done.
How hard it is for our wounded hearts to believe the glory you bring into our midst, dear LORD. Your presence is overwhelming to us and so difficult to bear. But you would make it easy, if we had but faith. Turn our hearts to the call to serve you, that we might be ready to receive you. O let us speak in your Name!
Thu, 17 December 2020
(Jer.23:5-8; Ps.72:1,7,12-13,18-19; Mt.1:18-24)
“He will save His people from their sins.”
Each of our readings today mentions the salvation of our Lord. The above quote is from our gospel; our psalm states, “The lives of the poor He shall save”; and in our first reading it says, “In His days Judah shall be saved.” The very name “Jesus” – as given to Joseph by the angel of the Lord – means “God saves”. The great God of the universe, the living God who has brought us all to birth, comes among us, “is with us” (“Emmanuel”) to save us, to redeem us, to bring us back to our “own land”… to be again with the Father.
And this “righteous shoot to David,” this king who “shall reign and govern wisely,” who “shall do what is right and just in the land,” is born from above, not below. As the angel also tells Joseph, “It is by the Holy Spirit that [Mary] has conceived this child.” The Virgin is with child! Alleluia! A greater sign, a more complete love from the Father we could not imagine. And so we sing with our psalmist: “Blessed forever be His glorious name; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.” Indeed, all nations, not only Judah, shall be saved by this Blessed Child.
“The days are coming,” brothers and sisters, and are already here. The Lord walks among us. The Child has been born, and is being born in each of us; and as a people He comes to us. Mary “bore a son”; Joseph named Him “Jesus”, as instructed, and Jesus He is – His salvation has come forth. You must receive Him into your home with the Mother who bore Him. You must have faith that He is from above. Let Joseph be your model in care for the Savior, and He shall care for you for all eternity. Like Mary, nourish the Lord every day of your life.
His love is growing in us all. His presence is becoming known. The promised of the ages dwells with us with His justice, and His kingdom is being built as we speak. No more will our sins condemn us. No more will we hide our faces from the Lord. We shall be free once more, and this time forever, for the Lord has heard the cry of the poor.
O LORD, since your Son is with us,
we may now make our home in you –
praise you for your justice!
YHWH, your Son saves us from our sins. For this you have sent Him among us; for this He has been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary – it is for this He has been born a Man. O let be accomplished that for which He has come!
From Egypt you rescued your enslaved sons. From the land of the North you brought them back to their home. From all sin you now deliver all men, beginning with the Jew. O LORD, you hear us when we cry out – let us cry out to you that this day we might be saved. Let us welcome your Son into our home, that in Him we might find our eternal union with you.
O LORD, let the earth be filled with your glory! This is your will, this is your desire… this is the goal to which all your Creation is straining. Speak to us this day that we might know the way you would lead us, and let us follow the angel’s word to freedom in the reign of Jesus.
Wed, 16 December 2020
(Gn.49:2,8-10; Ps.72:3-4,7-8,17; Mt.1:1-17)
“May He rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Since “the scepter shall never depart from Judah,” the reign of Jesus, His descendant, His fulfillment, is without end – He is King forever. And so, “tribute is brought to Him, and He receives the peoples’ homage,” which is in itself their salvation.
Who is this Lion of Judah, fulfillment of Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his son? What sort of king have we? It is in the words of our psalm we find His kingship revealed: “He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor.” For Jesus, though fierce as a lion in His judgment – for there is nothing untrue in Him – reveals primarily the love of God the king must embody. In His reign, “the mountains shall yield peace for the people, and the hills justice.” First is the love He brings to this generation; second, its complement, justice.
And of what worth is the “family record of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,” we find in our gospel today? Be not overly bored by it, my brothers and sisters, for in its mundaneness it holds the key to our salvation. For it reveals how very real Jesus is, that He is part of our human family; and should this not make us rejoice, that the Son of God is also Son of Man? And though the forty-two or so names may not be familiar to our ears, we should know at least that there are all kinds in this family tree of Jesus, from great men and women of faith humble before their God, to wicked kings and a prostitute. There is thus hope for us all.
Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the promised son of Abraham, and son of David, the king who sits on the throne forever. It was of Mary He was born, and Mary’s husband was Joseph. And since husband and wife are one – and though there’s was only a spiritual communion, it is in the spiritual communion unity is truly found – we trace His line through this humble man. And we pray we shall enter into communion with the Lord ourselves and live in the reign of this King in whom “all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”
Today we praise our brother in the flesh and pray to be made one in His Spirit. May He indeed rule over all.
O LORD, because your Son judges justly,
peace shall reign to the ends of the earth –
for this He has come among us.
YHWH, your Son rules over all; from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth His rule extends, for He has been born into our midst, He has become part of our generation, and so all in our midst, every generation, is under His reign. Alleluia!
All the tribes of the earth should rejoice in Him, O LORD. Though David’s Son and so of your Chosen people, yet your prophets have foretold that every people shall bow down before Him, even as all David’s sons. This Lion of Judah shall govern all with justice, shall bring peace to all who call upon His Name. Alleluia, LORD! For this grace we thank you.
Truly the Name of Jesus shall remain as long as the sun – forever His Name shall be blessed in our midst. For He has come among us to save us; He is indeed one of us and brings divine blessings in His wake. O LORD, in every heart let Him reign!
Tue, 15 December 2020
(Is.45:6-8,18,21-25; Ps.85:9-14,Is.45:8; Lk.7:18-23)
“There is no just and saving God but me.”
Jesus is “He who is to come”; His deeds speak for themselves. “There is no other!”
“Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” How evident this is in Jesus’ life, for wherever He goes He teaches wisdom; whomever He touches He heals. God created the world “not to be a waste” but “to be lived in,” and so Jesus sets free all captives – the blind, the lame, the deaf… He releases all from sin. Yes, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” The justice which descends from the heavens, which falls from His lips “like dew from above,” will cause “salvation [to] bud forth.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” We see Him. We hear Him. If our hearts are open to Him, we witness His working every moment of our lives. For He is “the creator of the heavens… the designer and maker of the earth,” and His Hand is at work in all things – He cannot be separated from His creation. The light and the darkness are made by Him, and for us who love Him “truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” “For He proclaims peace to His people.” For those who love Him, there is only light.
And we know that Light is Jesus. It is to witness to Him the Baptist came; and now he hears of the fulfillment of the way he has prepared. We must find “no stumbling block” in the Lord. We must join in proclaiming His good news, in walking in His way – in letting our deeds speak for themselves as wrought by the Hand of the loving Creator and His redeeming Son.
Be of light, brothers and sisters, of justice, of peace. Let kindness and truth meet in all your words and deeds and you will be sons and daughters of the one “just and saving God” – and you will be blessed forever.
O LORD, may every knee bend before you
who created us and redeemed us.
YHWH, in your goodness you have made the earth and all who dwell in it, and by your grace your Son has served to redeem Creation. From the beginning you designed this world to be lived in, you desired that all your creatures should flourish, and though woe has come upon us because of our disobedience, now Jesus has come among us to make the deaf hear and the blind see, to raise us from the death of sin. O let us walk before you in justice!
You are the only just and saving God; beside you there is no other. And should we not rejoice in your presence, O LORD? Your justice rains down upon us from Heaven now, and should we not spring up from the earth declaring your truth and your glory? Should we not be one with your Son who is our salvation and so find your blessings, and so yield an increase of holy fruit? O let us be healed of all our afflictions! that we might know your glory dwelling in our land.
Mon, 14 December 2020
(Zep.3:1-2,9-13; Ps.34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23; Mt.21:28-32)
“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”
All have been “rebellious and polluted”; all have been as she who “hears no voice” and “accepts no correction.” But the Lord now comes to “change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Who is it who hears the voice of the Lord to “not be ashamed of all [our] deeds, [our] rebellious acts against [Him]”?
“Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” Jesus states simply and directly to the chief priests and elders. These lowest of society, these most polluted, have put faith in John’s preaching of “a way of holiness,” but those most esteemed, the elder son whose words bear the stamp of God but whose actions are far from Him, are held back from entering the kingdom by their pride, perhaps thinking they are already there.
How sad. How can it be that those so steeped in the holy Scriptures do not hear the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves”? Or how are they blind to the vision of the “humble and lowly” the Lord deems to bless? For that matter, how do they hide themselves from the great prophet’s declaration that the Lord “will remove from [their] midst the proud braggarts”?
Our words alone will not save us, brothers and sisters. However great the lines of the scribe or the preaching of the priest, it will mean nothing if not lived in flesh and blood. Better to say no to God, as the younger son, and then turn to Him and do His will. Certainly we all stray; and this we must recognize. But just as certain is that all must turn to Him, after regretting our sin, and do as He commands.
Do not be afraid. The Lord will “destroy remembrance of evildoers,” but count not yourself as in allegiance with them. Be among those who “speak no lies” and you “shall pasture and couch [your] flocks with none to disturb [you].” The vision of God and His Spirit shall be your own.
O LORD, let us speak no lie before you
but let our actions meet our words of praise.
YHWH, we must do your will to enter your kingdom, this your Son makes clear to all. We cannot merely honor you with our lips but must make our holiness incarnate as His.
O the woe of the proud, dear LORD! How terrible their separation from you. For they are blind even to their separation, and so, what shall save them? Let them be saved by seeing the humble come to you; let them know your mercy and love by witnessing your forgiveness toward the lowly sinner… and let them accept your mercy upon their own hearts.
Purify our lips, O LORD, from all lies, all deceitful words. Let it be your holy NAME that is upon our tongues, that we might dwell in truth and peace and humility, and praise your glory forever.
You are close to the brokenhearted, LORD; you gather even the rebellious into your arms. Let us accept the correction of your Son and cry out to you, that we may indeed be saved and come to serve you.
Sun, 13 December 2020
(Nm.24:2-7,15-17; Ps.25:4-9; Mt.21:23-27)
“A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.”
And the light of that star is reflected in the eyes of Balaam, who, though a pagan, is gifted by God with the clear vision to see the beauty and wonder of “Israel encamped, tribe by tribe,” “like gardens beside a stream,” “like the cedars planted by the Lord.” And as He is seen in the nation of Israel blessed by the Lord, so His glory is reflected in the heart and words and actions of everyone who believes and proclaims in truth that Jesus is that star, that Jesus is the Son of God.
Those who remain close to the teaching of Jesus, and to His ways, “shall have the sea within reach.” There shall be an abundance of wisdom at the ready for those who are graced with ears to hear His words. “He teaches the humble His way,” yes, and guides us on straight paths which lead directly to the Most High. And “with eyes unveiled” we shall gaze not only on His reflection in the fields of this earthly existence, but on Him Himself as He is in heaven.
The teaching of Jesus is divine and He Himself is divine, above whose authority there is no other. But His light can only be seen, His words can only be understood by those whose hearts are open to truth and willing to walk the path He sets. If the “chief priests and elders of the people” closed themselves off from Him in a political quandary, we must not do so. Instead we must be as His apostles, in whom the tribes of Israel are truly aligned perfectly, and have as ready a response as we know Peter had on the shores of Galilee, as Thomas had when He appeared in their midst: He is our Lord, our God. This we must see. This we must know. And this we must proclaim.
The star has risen in our midst; the Savior has come. Now we await the fulfillment of that light and must bring it to bear in this generation. Now we must follow that star where it leads.
O LORD, let our eyes see the coming of your Son,
and our hearts put faith in His authority.
YHWH, let our eyes not be blind, blind to the glory that stands before us in your only Son. Let our eyes be open to vision of your kingdom, the kingdom He brings to this earth. Let our tents be set in line with your will, O LORD; let our hearts be humble before you.
LORD God, you show the humble your way; you bless them with your presence in their souls and your light shining in their lives. Teach us this day the way we should walk, the way marked out for us by your Son. Upon Him your authority rests – let us not question His divinity but believe in His power and so in your own. May His Word transform our souls.
The wisdom of the ages comes to us this day in Jesus and in His words. Here is the ocean at our hands, before our eyes, that all we might know of your goodness, LORD. Let us honor Him as our King who has come and follow in the way He leads.
Thu, 10 December 2020
(Is.48:17-19; Ps.1:1-4,6,Jn.8:12; Mt.11:16-19)
“Time will prove where wisdom lies.”
No doubt it lies with God. It lies with the Son of Man, come for our salvation.
“I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.” Is it not our essential call to obey His Word, to listen for His voice and follow in His way? Are they not happy who hear the Word of God and keep it? Is this not wisdom, to walk in the way of our Creator, with the One who loves us above all? Does not all our misery stem from disobedience to His sacred commandments? Do we not in this way of our own making not simply lose all love in our hearts? Does this not bring our death?
If we would but follow the Lord, our “prosperity would be like a river,” no doubt. Our “descendants would be like the sand,” for “like a tree planted near running water” we would flourish with the wisdom which comes from the font of life which is the Lord, and one would we become with all the children of His eternal kingdom.
We cannot expect the Lord to dance to the tune we pipe or wail to the dirge we sing. It is the height of foolishness for the creature to attempt to impose its will on the Creator. But such is our pride, the source of our wickedness. And so, deaf, blind, and empty are we when we seek to turn the order of the universe back upon our God. For “like chaff which the wind drives away” our own foolish counsels can all but come to naught. The branch cannot grow apart from the vine, nor can the tree bear fruit without the water which gives it life.
“Happy the man who… delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.” For then the nourishing waters are upon him; then the light of wisdom fills him – then he shall bear fruit a hundredfold and never taste of death. For the Hand of God will be upon him to lead him to the eternal kingdom, where His wisdom will be proven true.
O LORD, let us follow your Wisdom, your Word,
your way to eternal life.
YHWH, let us follow in your way, in the way you call us to walk. Let us not follow in the way of the wicked, the way which vanishes, but walk with you, meditating on your Word, and we will come to life, to life everlasting with you.
If we do not listen to your Word, what fools we are, O LORD! If we seek our own designs and to impose them upon you – what greater foolishness can there be? O let us recognize you as God and not ourselves! And may obedience to your voice be our salvation.
John appeared neither eating nor drinking to show us the path of sacrifice that leads to you, that enables us to overcome this world and find your kingdom. Jesus ate and drank for He is of your kingdom and calls all to your table on high. O let us witness to your Wisdom at work in all things! a wisdom we cannot gainsay or deny, a wisdom we must accept to find its light. There in your Wisdom let us make our home, dear LORD, and we shall prosper unto eternity.
Wed, 9 December 2020
(Is.41:13-20; Ps.145:1,8-13; Mt.11:11-15)
“I will make you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged.”
A “worm” and a “maggot” are we. We are “the afflicted and the needy [who] seek water in vain, [our] tongues… parched with thirst.” But holding our right hand, the Lord speaks to us: “Fear not, I will help you.” “I will open up rivers on the bare heights… I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.” And has not John the Baptizer come, into the desert, into the wilderness, and there poured the water of God’s compassion upon us for the forgiveness of sins?
Lush trees now grow in the desert: we who were once empty are now filled with God’s grace. And yes, “the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” For all these wonders accomplished in our midst are but to “make known to men [His] might and the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.” Indeed, we now “thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff,” but all this is done in His power.
And how then do we understand Jesus’ words: “From John the Baptizer’s time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force”? We know that John spoke boldly in the name of God; unafraid of his oppressors, he called all to repentance. We should all learn from the power of God he displayed in crying out in the wilderness. We know also that at the time Jesus spoke the above words, John was imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, suffering genuinely the violence of this generation. We know Jesus Himself will be crucified. We know all the apostles (save John) will be martyred for the faith – all His children suffer under the weight of the cross imposed by the violent of this world.
But we know also that this very cross is the means God has chosen to most poignantly reveal His powerful hand at work. For the nails which fix our hands to the wood have no power over us, and so by the humble acceptance of the violence of this age we do most dramatically destroy, crush into dust, the mountains of this world. And we upon whom the greatest violence is inflicted indeed effect the greater violence upon our oppressors, for by this sacrifice wickedness is destroyed and the righteous enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us act with such strength from God, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the kingdom.
O LORD, let there be springs of water
in the desert of this world,
that we poor souls might not die
but enter into your kingdom.
YHWH, Elijah has come as a threshing sledge preparing the way for your Son – and now all souls may enter your kingdom!
To the desert of our lives you have brought your water, O LORD. We who were parched and lifeless have heard the Baptist’s call to repentance and known the grace that comes to us thereby. Your Son, your very Son has come among us and opened the gates of Heaven; in His sacrifice you show your great compassion, and now this tree of life flourishes in our midst.
To the Cross we must all be nailed, dear LORD; all the evil in us must die. But what blessing such violence brings! For joining ourselves to your Son’s sacrifice, the glorious splendor of your reign is revealed to our eyes.
Though we must die, LORD, you live in us and remain in us until the end of time. And so for such grace we bless you; so this day we heed your Son’s voice. Let us be washed clean in the water from His side and come quickly to eternal life.
Tue, 8 December 2020
(Is.40:25-31; Ps.103:1-4,8,10; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
How we do become “weary and find life burdensome.” How we can “faint and grow weary,” “stagger and fall” from the burden of sin and our inherent weakness. But oh how “He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak He makes vigor abound.” For indeed He is the creator of the universe – “by His great might and the strength of His power” all things come to be – and His Son is the redeemer of our souls. “The Lord is the eternal God” and “they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings.” Trust in Him who “pardons all your iniquities” and “heals all your ills.”
What a promise Jesus holds forth for those who come to His “gentle and humble” heart: “Your souls will find rest.” We know that the great St. Augustine has told us that only in God do our souls find rest. How we wander aimlessly in trackless wastes seeking comfort for our souls, rest for our weary bodies, taking refuge in the various attractions of the world and the vain promise they hold. How late in life all of us come to the fulfilling promise of Jesus, for any time spent apart from Him is but wasted.
And thank the Lord that He is “merciful and gracious.” Thank Him that “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” For what hope would we have then? But this great God who has no equal, who holds the world in His hand, “redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion” despite your sins, if you but come to Him as He calls.
How patiently Jesus waits for each of us, this only Son of God, this image of the Father and embodiment of His love. How gracious He is toward us poor creatures. Will you not take His “yoke upon your shoulders and learn” from Him? Will you not find refreshment from all your sins and forgiveness of all your crimes? Will you continue to turn your face away from Him who watches over all and weigh yourself down with anxiety? Or will you come to Him, your only hope? Take the light burden of His gracious Word upon your souls and do His will in this world.
O LORD, how shall your compassion come
to dwell in our hearts,
and your strength renew our own? –
let us be blessed in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, you make our burden light by the Cross of your only Son. He takes our sins upon Himself and carries them away, and we need but turn to Him and walk with Him to find rest for our souls.
How great is your announcement to us, O LORD; how great your blessing! For you who are Creator of Heaven and earth promise your own strength to those who believe in you, who turn to your grace and mercy. Our sins you remember not, our iniquities you pardon; and finding no condemnation at your hands, we are free to soar as with eagles’ wings – for what punishment can there be if it comes not from you?
O LORD, for all your benefits let all men bless you and your holy NAME. Let us come this day to your only Son and share the blessings upon Him. He will carry our burden in this world and so our yoke will be light. Deep in our souls let us know your compassion, and we shall soar on your heights.
Sun, 6 December 2020
(Is.35:1-10; Ps.85:9-14,Is.35:4; Lk.5:17-26)
“A highway will be there, called the holy way.”
Jesus is the highway; holy is He! He is the stream that “will burst forth in the desert.” It is He who “strengthen[s] the hands that are feeble [and] make[s] firm the knees that are weak,” that they might walk along His way. It is He who forgives sins. For “no one unclean may pass over” the safe path He makes in the wilderness of this world, and He wishes to “give His benefits” to all of faith. “Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.”
“Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing,” prophesies Isaiah. And Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Get up! Take your mat with you and return to your house.” And what did the man do? “He picked up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God.” “We have seen incredible things today!” the crowd exclaims in awe, for the great vision of the prophet Isaiah has come to pass before their eyes: before them is being set the path to paradise.
“Hear what the Lord proclaims,” brothers and sisters: “Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” Along His holy way “the redeemed will walk. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” All those forgiven their sins will enter their homes praising God. Yes, the “desert and the parched land… will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” We once paralyzed in our sin, by His hand, by His word, along His holy way, shall walk once again.
He has come. “Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” In Him “kindness and truth… meet, justice and peace… kiss.” In Him we are made whole by the breath of His mouth, by the words from His lips. And now we have “a journey to make.” Now there is a way to walk. Let us remain upon this highway. Let us preserve the healing He has brought to our bones. Let us now live in faith with our Lord.
O LORD, tear down the mountains of pride
and fill in the valleys of fear
that we might come to you on straight paths.
YHWH, how shall our flesh see your salvation? How shall we come to your glory, we poor, miserable creatures? Only because you call us to redemption. Only because you desire us to share in your heavenly majesty. And only if we make straight the way for your Son to come into our hearts.
O LORD, let us ever increase in knowledge of what is good and lasting, that we might be made pure and blameless for the day of Christ, that we might become as He is, blessed to be called your sons. O let us give glory and praise to you for such a blessing!
Restore our fortunes, dear God; may we who have been separated from you and sent into exile be brought back to your holy City, to your mountain. As on royal thrones let us be borne aloft to gaze upon your splendor and glory, O King of all the nations. Great things you have indeed done for us, for now our weeping is turned to joy and we enter your presence bearing great fruit. Alleluia!
Fri, 4 December 2020
(Is.30:19-21,23-26; Ps.147:1-6,Is.30:18; Mt.9:35-10:1,6-8)
“On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of His people,
He will heal the bruises left by His blows.”
“Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the leprous, expel demons.” With these words Jesus sends His disciples forth proclaiming, “The reign of God is at hand!”
The prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled. The Savior has come. The Teacher is at our side now speaking into our ears, “This is the way; walk in it.” And of all our sins He cleanses us; from all our sickness He heals us. Indeed, “as soon as you call He will answer you,” for He is ready to wipe all tears from your eyes.
And what must be our response to a Lord who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” We must be the same as He. We must go forth as He has, teaching, proclaiming “the good news of God’s reign,” and curing “every sickness and disease.” It is our call to make others whole in heart, mind, soul, and body; and so, to whatever need is present – and there are many or the Lord would not ask us to “beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest” – we must apply the grace of God. He will do the work that is needed, but He needs us to work through.
To what glory all are called; what a wonderful message we have to bring forth! Isaiah, the great prophet, only touches upon it when he cries out that the Lord “will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground” (see how He will bless your work!) and when he proclaims: “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater.” This vision is for all who turn to the Lord for healing.
We have been bruised, brothers and sisters. No doubt, our sins have brought wounds to our souls. But the Lord will bind up all these; in His surpassing pity He will raise us all from death as He “rebuilds Jerusalem.” Let us bring this message forth.
O LORD, heal us of all ill and teach us
to walk in the way that leads unto Heaven.
YHWH, we lie prostrate from exhaustion, do we not? We thirst for your presence; we hunger for the Bread you provide. Come to us. Send your laborers to teach us and to heal us of every disease, to bring us your grace. Have pity on your sheep, O LORD!
We are broken, but when we cry out to you, O LORD, you hear our voice and quickly answer our prayers. And what promise you make to our waiting hearts! Abundance of blessing shall be ours as you heal the wounds of our sin and bring us into your glorious presence.
Seven times greater than the light of the sun will be your light on that Day, O LORD. Streams of running water will fill our thirst for you and by your teaching we will be led in our every step. Come, LORD, fulfill your promise in our midst. Let all men know your reign is at hand.
Thu, 3 December 2020
(Is.29:17-24; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Mt.9:27-31)
“The eyes of the blind shall see.”
O “that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple.” That out of “gloom and darkness” I might be taken, and come “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” That I could feel His hands touch my eyes, that I might have the faith to believe they shall be open to His glory…
Brothers and sisters, we are blind. All of us. All of us lack understanding. All of us falter in faith. For who among us is there that gazes continually upon the Lord’s presence? Who among us has entered His glory? Who among us possesses no arrogance and has “nothing to be ashamed of”? If yet we toil upon this earth, groaning as we await the redemption of our bodies, then yet do we continue in a measure blind. Yet do we seek His face. And if yet seeking “to see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” then yet have we to find it in its fullness; and so, yet do our eyes lack of the light that is the Lord, our salvation.
But certainly we are not without hope. Most certainly His hand is upon us even now. Most certainly His presence comes to us each and every day. Clearly His light shines in our midst in the Sacrament we receive and in the Word we hear, and so we can with confidence heed the exhortation of the psalm of David: “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” For He comes, and we know this. We are catching up to Him, and this is our joy. Yes, today do we know we shall see Him, for our eyes do glimpse Him even now.
In the meantime, brothers and sisters, as we wait, as the light that has dawned upon the world rises to our eyes, as He comes to fill our vision, let us strive to avoid speaking any word which “condemns a man.” Let us know that indeed we “err in spirit” and need the Lord’s light to guide us, and we shall become free of that which blinds us. And we shall be the lowly who are raised to His presence.
O LORD, let us gaze upon your loveliness always!
YHWH, take us out of gloom and darkness that we might gaze upon your face; save us this day from all evil that into your Temple we may come. You are our very light, O LORD – let our eyes be filled with vision of your presence.
O LORD, let us never cease pursuing you till we catch up with you and you turn to us to heal us. So far short of your glory do we fall, so far short. Yet you draw us forth as you walk on ahead of us; yet if we keep calling out to you, you shall answer. Never let our hearts be discouraged as we seek the light of your face.
O LORD, let us keep your NAME holy; in awe let us reverence you always. Let us remember your love for us and the understanding your Spirit brings. O let our minds be filled with your light as we wait steadfastly for you to come!
Open our ears, O LORD; open our eyes. Cast from our midst all arrogance, all condemnation from our tongues. Let us not be condemned ourselves but come to contemplate your glory forever.
Wed, 2 December 2020
(Is.26:1-6; Ps.118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27; Mt.7:21,24-27)
“Trust in the Lord forever!
For the Lord is an eternal rock.”
Sand or rock? Upon which do we build our house? If we “take refuge in the Lord” and enter “the gates of justice,” we shall find salvation in the Lord’s kingdom; if we “trust in man” and “princes,” we shall be leveled with the dust – our house shall collapse and we be “completely ruined.”
The choice is set before us. “Those in high places” will be humbled to the ground; those who find refuge in the empty things of this world will find no protection on the day of His coming. But for the “nation of firm purpose,” which “comes in the name of the Lord,” “He sets up walls and ramparts to protect.” And they shall “give thanks to the Lord” as they enter the gates of His holy city.
Jesus states clearly, “Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter His kingdom: the one “who hears my words and puts them into practice” is he who is wise. And the putting into practice is key. Jesus has come in the flesh, and flesh there must be to our deeds. He is real, and we must be as real as He in our love. Otherwise we deny Him. We deny His coming if we do not live His way. God is not across the ocean or in the sky; He walks upon this earth now and must be in our lives. Only this will bring us strength. Only this will enable us to stand when the torrents come and the winds blow and buffet our house – for these have no power over those who are set in the Hand of God, who do His bidding.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk.11:28). We cannot but think of these challenging words from our Lord, referring greatly to the Mother of God – whose service to the Lord we particularly celebrate in these days of preparation – and cannot but hope to abide by them and become the handmaiden Mary has shown herself to be, that the eternal blessings of God might be ours as well. In Him let us trust. In Him let our faith be set. And let us do His will.
O LORD, let us dwell in your House,
built on the Rock that is you.
YHWH, how shall our city be strong if we do not trust in you? How shall we stand on your Day if we are not your children, if we have not done your will in this world? How can we enter your House and there dwell in peace if we have not the key to your kingdom, if we live not as your Son?
O LORD, we shall but fall to the dust and be trampled underfoot if we have only words to offer you. If we have lived our lives in vain, then we have built our house on sand, and it shall but collapse when you stand before us on your holy Day. There is no hope for those who do not come to your Son and put His words into practice.
But for those who trust in you and serve you, the gates of justice open up and they enter in and dwell in your presence – these stand strong whatever may come for they stand with you who are the eternal Rock, the foundation that cannot be shaken. Let us enter your House and give thanks to you, O LORD, for you are our Savior and in you we take our refuge.
Tue, 1 December 2020
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.15:29-37)
“The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.”
And He will heal us. And He will lead us. And He will feed us.
Jesus went up onto a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee and sat down to teach and to heal. The sick were laid at His feet. Isaiah says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.” This mountain is the Lord. It is Jesus who reaches out His hand to heal those lying at His feet. It is Jesus who raises the bread for blessing and gives all to eat. And it is He who “will destroy death forever.” “This is the Lord for whom we looked.”
And it is through His Church Jesus works; through the blessing of the priest who raises the bread and the cup, Jesus gives us His Body and Blood – this is our “feast of rich food and choice wines” envisioned by Isaiah. It is He who forgives our sins, He who removes “the reproach of His people,” wiping away “the tears from all faces” in the confessional. He anoints us with the oil of the Spirit in Baptism; He joins us as one in holy Matrimony… He shepherds us with the Word of His teaching, leading us “in right paths,” “beside restful waters,” to “dwell in the house of the Lord” forever.
“Let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!” If “only goodness and kindness” follow us all our days, what have we to do but rejoice? If we have a Lord who looks with such pity upon our hunger, what need we fear? If it is He who “spread[s] the table” before us, even here in this world, “in the sight of [our] foes,” where sin besets us… what can we lack? If “cripples, the deformed, the blind, the mute, and many others” were healed of their maladies, what sickness of ours is beyond His redemption?
In this world we “walk in the dark valley.” In this world we hunger. Here “the veil that veils all peoples” is upon us. But here, too, He is with us to refresh our souls and feed us with His Body and Blood in the New Jerusalem.
O LORD, feed us on the holy mountain
which is your Son
with His own Body and Blood.
YHWH, you are He for whom we have looked, and you come to us in your only Son, who gives to us His Body and His Blood that we might feast upon your presence even in this world. Let us not be afraid but remember that you are with us.
How glorious is your kingdom, LORD, where all are made well, where all are fed by your hand. Though we have so little to offer, you take it and bless it and multiply it that we might have an abundance. And so, even in the valley of death through which we must pass, you are with us to guide us, for your Son has gone there before us.
On your mountain let us make our home, O LORD our God; in the Word and Bread your Son offers let us take our refuge. He is the mountain on which we must dwell – in Him all death is dispelled and we are made whole in your sight. Let us remain ever on this mountain.
Mon, 30 November 2020
(Is.11:1-10; Ps.72:1,7-8,12-13,17; Lk.10:21-24)
“The earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord,
as water covers the sea.”
And so, “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
The vision is sure: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb… the lion shall eat hay like the ox… the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair,” for all shall live as one in the Spirit of the Lord. “Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace” – such is the vision to which all hearts aspire.
Jesus is the fullness of that peace. And so He says to His disciples, “Blest are the eyes that see what you see,” for what “prophets and kings wished to see,” what Isaiah prophesies for us today, is present there before them.
And He is present before us. But we can only see and hear Him if we are as “merest children,” else His presence will be hidden from our eyes. He wishes to reveal Himself, desires to lead us to the Father whom He alone knows, to whom He alone can lead us – but to find such fullness of vision, to gaze upon the face of God, to be filled with His wisdom and knowledge as is His Son, we must first fear Him, as He does, and seek to abide by the words and the commands that come to us by “the breath of His lips.” All must be slain that is wicked in us, and His justice and faithfulness shall be ours.
“May His name be blessed forever; as long as the sun His name shall remain,” for He Himself is light, and indeed His dwelling is glorious. With judgment and justice He is endowed, and in the light of His wisdom and grace we stand eternally blessed. But are our eyes open to Him?
Now should we pray for the Lord’s light to fill us, for His knowledge to cover us, that our eyes may be open to see Him, that we shall not miss Him as He comes.
O Lord, prepare our hearts to see you,
and the blessing of your presence, your peace,
O LORD, open our eyes and ears
to your glorious presence among us.
YHWH, your Son is our justice; our hope for peace is in Him – open our eyes to see His presence, to see your presence among us.
Upon Jesus your favor rests, O LORD, and that favor you would share with all of us; that favor He would share with us if we would but turn to Him with the heart of a child. May we be truly humble, O LORD, truly loving and truly kind, that your justice might be upon us for good, and to your salvation, to your holy mountain, we shall be called.
In awe of you let us stand, LORD, our eyes and ears filled with your glory alone. O how shall we bear such blessing? How shall we come to know such surpassing peace? How shall we come to stand in your presence and live in your perfection? Only if your Son reveals to us your glory; only if we are sustained by His grace will we be filled with knowledge of you, our only God.
Fri, 27 November 2020
(Rv.22:1-7; Ps.95:1-7,Rv.21:20; Lk.21:34-36)
“Remember, I am coming soon!”
And when He comes what blessings there shall be for those who have been faithful to Him. They shall eat of “the trees of life which produce fruit twelve times a year,” which grow either side of “the river of life-giving water, clear as crystal” flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Healed entirely shall they be by the medicine of their leaves.
Then, brothers and sisters, if we wish to eat of this blessed, holy fruit, let us not now “become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares.” For the bitter fruit of this earth will only poison our souls with sin and so prevent our tasting the food of the heavenly kingdom. “Nothing deserving a curse shall be found there,” so let us remove all of this world’s bitterness from our tongues.
Oh my dear brethren, the promise is great for those who “serve Him faithfully,” who “acclaim the Rock of our salvation,” the Lord, the “great God,” and Jesus Christ His Son. Listen to what our blessed brother John imparts to us today, for “these words are trustworthy and true,” and oh so beautiful: “They shall see Him face to face and bear His name on their foreheads. The night shall be no more. They will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever.” Do you hear these words? Does the promise take root in your hearts? Oh let your heart be upon His light! Let the glory of His face be all you aspire to, for it is not far from you.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.” For “the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, has sent His angel to show His servants what must happen very soon.” Let us listen to His words. “Happy the man who heeds the prophetic message of this book!” who eats the Bread God provides. His dawn is on the horizon.
O LORD, come;
send your Son a second time
and let us enter your kingdom.
YHWH, that we might be able to stand secure before your Son on His coming Day, that great and terrible day that leads to the eternal kingdom! O that we might eat the fruit of the crystal river that flows from your throne and that of the Lamb, that heals us of all our illness and enables us to live forever! O that we might stand in your holy light, that we might look upon your face, your NAME written on our foreheads! O that we might forever reign with you!
O LORD, let us sing your praise even this day that we might come to sing your praise always in your kingdom. Let us bow down in our worship and kneel before you who have made us. You are our God, you alone; let our hearts not be set on any of the things of this world but on you who have made them all, that we might transcend this earth and all its emptiness and come quickly into your presence. O let us heed your Word this day and ever serve you faithfully. Glory to you, O LORD our God!
Thu, 26 November 2020
(Rv.20:1-4,11-21:2; Ps.84:3-6,8,Rv.21:3; Lk.21:29-33)
“The heavens and the earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass.”
Indeed John tells us of his vision that once “the former heavens and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer,” he saw “new heavens and a new earth,” which are, of course, founded on the Word of God, given life by the breath of His mouth alone.
Yes, in the great Evangelist’s vision there was “One who sat on” “a large white throne,” and “the earth and the sky fled from His presence until they could no longer be seen.” Even as the dead whose names are “not found inscribed in the book of the living” are “hurled into the pool the fire,” even as they cannot stand before the judgment seat of the Lord, neither can this earth we walk upon or the heavens upon which we gaze, for they too have become as corrupted as their inhabitants: all that has been spoiled by sin must be cast into darkness, into eternal death. For all that is wicked must join the prince of wickedness, whom the angel of God chains up and hurls “into the abyss, which he close[s] and seal[s] over him.” And any release from this dungeon is only illusory and brief, for this is the home prepared by the Word of God for him and those who serve him from the foundation of the world.
But oh the wonder of the “New Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband.” It is she whom He has indeed prepared for Himself, purifying her as a precious jewel, even from the time she was first conceived in His mind, even since His breath first came upon her. And so it is our “soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord,” and is not happy until it rests in His house – yes, our soul is like a sparrow which finds its home in Him, and like the swallow which in His altars makes a nest for her young.
“Happy they who dwell in your house! Continually they praise you.” And in our midst we see your fig tree bloom in the shoot that is your only Son, and your peace does come to reign upon us now. To nothing of this world let us hold but let all corruption pass, that your judgment we may endure, and be found worthy of new life in the Word you speak eternally.
O LORD, let us live in your undying Word
that we might not know the second death,
that we might do your will upon this earth
and come to the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, when the heavens and the earth pass away, when they flee from your holy presence, may we be found worthy to stand before your throne and make our eternal home in your House. Of the New Jerusalem let us be, our souls prepared for the return of your Son.
O LORD, we yearn for you, we who are so separated from your glory, from the love that does not pass away. Open our eyes to see your coming, to recognize your presence among us even this day; and make us ready to praise you forever when this winter has passed into spring.