Mon, 10 August 2020
(Ez.2:8-3:4; Ps.119:14,24,72,103,111,131; Mt.18:1-5,10,12-14)
“How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
And is there a sweeter promise or a sweeter teaching than that which Jesus gives today in our gospel? In answer to the disciples’ question, “‘Who is of greatest importance in the kingdom of God?’ He called a little child over and stood him in their midst and said ... ‘Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign.’” And He goes on to assure them that none of His children is forgotten by the Father – each He searches out diligently. Always they shall behold the absolute sweetness of His countenance... forever they shall look on His presence. O to be as that innocent child in the Lord Jesus’ arms!
“Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” O Lord, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands.” Let us be as your prophet Ezekial, to whom you bring the written scroll and command, “Open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.” Let us “eat what is before [us]”; let us “eat this scroll.” Let us consume your words and commands and “feed [our] belly and fill [our] stomach” with your teaching and your promises. For all your words are “sweet as honey in [the] mouth.” All that comes from you is grace and peace and joy. And though the words may be sour in our stomach, though we may have to declare “lamentation and wailing and woe!” to those who turn from your law – though suffering may indeed follow in accomplishing your will, yet the sweet knowledge that all comes from your hand shall sustain us; we shall never forget your blessing.
Nothing is sweeter, nothing is more wonderful, than fulfilling the word of God in our lives. Nothing is greater than coming to His table to eat. And now this Word made flesh is in our midst, and of its sweetness we daily partake. Of His presence we cannot receive enough; to His love there are no bounds. And children before Him we constantly become as we ever consume His promises, listening to His Word and eating and drinking His Body and Blood. And so, let us rejoice as we receive from the “hand stretched out to [us].”
O LORD, fulfill your promise, we pray,
and let all your children enter your reign.
YHWH, how sweet to my taste are your commands, are your words to our souls, for they are life to us – you save us by your prophecy.
You would have us be as humble as you, LORD, and so you call us to be as children. O let our eyes and our mouths open wide to receive the glorious food you offer, and in faith we shall come into your kingdom.
And if it should cause us pain to speak in your NAME, to live our lives according to your Son’s example – to follow in the way of the Cross, LORD – of what concern should this be to us? If we must proclaim your message of lamentation and wailing and woe that others might be saved from straying and be gathered into your fold, this too should be sweet to us; indeed, we should gasp with open mouth to aid the salvation of your little ones. Then our own salvation will be assured.
O LORD, let us be your disciples; let us share in your Son’s Cross, in the Word He is and shares with us… O let your will be done and let all enter your presence!
Fri, 7 August 2020
(Hb.1:12-2:4; Ps.9:8-13; Mt.17:14-20)
“They trust in you who cherish your name,
for you forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.”
“Why could we not expel it?” the disciples asked Jesus regarding the boy so severely possessed by a demon. “‘Because you have so little trust,’ He told them.”
Brothers and sisters, is it the Lord who “delays”? Is it He who fails to cast wickedness and misery from our midst? Or is it not rather we who fail in faith? We complain and ask, When will the Lord act? but is the Lord not quick to act, as He does in our gospel today, whenever we call upon Him in truth? Does He not give us the power to do all in His Name? Does He somehow withhold His grace?
Certainly not. “He has not forgotten the cry of the afflicted,” and it is eternally true that “the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” The wicked man shall not “keep brandishing his sword to slay peoples without mercy”; and of the fool who “sacrifices to his net” for the fish that come through it – failing to see the God who provides all things and who alone deserves our trust… how long shall such vanity last? It shall disappear with the coming dawn.
“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” He who is here in our midst is coming to us, and we know “He judges the world with justice; He governs the peoples with equity.” And His time is soon fulfilled. But how we must trust in Him! How our faith must be purified! How our hearts must be taken from the empty things of this world and our eyes set entirely on the Lord. Only this will save us; and this is what He teaches.
Trust in Him and in His Name;
it is only He who saves us.
He forsakes not His children.
O LORD, let us but trust in you and you will heal us
and bring us to your glory.
YHWH, let us cherish your NAME; let us trust in you entirely and in the power and grace upon your Son. Then we shall be wanting for nothing. Then we shall be healed. Then the same power will be with us, to do all things in your NAME.
Wandering so blindly we see nothing but what is before our eyes, LORD, and so we sacrifice and burn incense to the vain things of this earth. We cannot see that there is no power in the things at our hands but that all power and all glory and our salvation are with you alone. And so we stumble along, falling into water and into fire, into sin and death.
O LORD, let us not be overwhelmed by the devil and his snares, by the empty things of this dark world. Let us make you our stronghold; let us put all faith in you and praise your NAME without ceasing. You shall remember us and answer our prayer, and come quickly to heal us. No longer let us be an unbelieving lot – let us come on our knees to you.
Thu, 6 August 2020
(Nah.2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7; Dt.32:35-36,39,41; Mt.16:24-28)
“It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them.”
When the Lord comes indeed “He will repay each man according to his conduct.” And the justice and judgment that are the Lord’s alone are evident in His work amongst Israel and their enemies, spoken of in our first reading and psalm today.
“The flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon!” such is the graphic description of the horrors inflicted by the “bloody city” of Ninevah, of Assyria, whose nation is “all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops!” And that which they have visited upon the nations, and upon the children of Israel, shall come to rest upon their own heads. For “surely, the Lord shall do justice for His people” and prove to the evildoers that it is He alone who “will sharpen [His] flashing sword”; it is He whose “hand shall lay hold of [His] quiver.” For vengeance is with the Lord alone and it is He who “will repay [His] foes and requite those who hate [Him].”
All those who take up the sword, what can be said of them? “Close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them.” Like Ninevah they shall be “destroyed, and who can pity her?” Is she not like he who has “gain[ed] the whole world and ruin[ed] himself in the process?” And shall not all who trust in “horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, cavalry charging,” themselves hear “the rumbling sound of wheels”? As the Lord has duly repaid those on earth, so He will more greatly repay all on the Day of salvation.
But even as death is visited upon the sinner, life dawns upon the righteous. For them, “the bearer of good news [comes], announcing peace.” Those who are pierced to the heart by the cross of Christ in this life, those who bear its weight through this forsaken land, walking in the footsteps of the Lord – even these shall “see the Son of Man come in His kingship.” For “whoever loses his life for [God’s] sake will find it,” and it shall be preserved unto eternity.
Brothers and sisters, though wounded here, the Lord Himself shall heal us. Let death come to all sin, and salvation shall be assured.
O LORD, let us not be trampled underfoot
but come rather to see your glory
by following in your way.
YHWH, it is you alone who bring both death and life, for life itself is in your hands, as is judgment of those who violate it. Your justice is both sure and true, and so you will repay each man according to his deeds: those who have embraced plunder and looting cannot but come to the death they have made; but those who embrace the Cross and lay down their lives in this world shall be blessed greatly by the sight of the Son of Man coming in His glory. Although such vision cannot but bring agony to those whose hearts are set on the ill-gotten gain of this evil age, the destruction of all evil in the LORD’s reign brings joy to the heart set upon Him who passes not away.
And so, dear LORD, let us be numbered among those who seek to lose their lives that they might be found walking in the way of your only Son. We pray the angels of Heaven may carry us to your kingdom on the Day He judges the world and all souls.
Tue, 4 August 2020
(Jer.31:1-7; Jer.31:10-13; Mt.15:21-28)
“Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings.”
In our first reading Jeremiah prophesies the restoration of “all the tribes of Israel” to the grace and “age-old love” of their Lord and God. The Lord promises His virgin daughter Israel: “Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.” He will “turn their mourning into joy” as this “remnant of Israel” returns to the holy heights of Mount Zion, as he “gathers them together” as His chosen once again.
And in our gospel the Lord makes clear it is for the lost children of Israel He has come. Here in the mission of the Christ, Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled. But more than the restoration of the nation of Israel do we hear of today. What we find is that not these alone shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings, but indeed all the nations shall find Him whom their hearts desire. And it is this Canaanite woman who leads the way for all Gentile people to receive the grace and favor of the One God.
On her knees she comes, crawling like a dog, this mother of all us not born of Jewish blood, to be grafted to the kingdom’s tree. Here is a sign of the humility we all must have. And when rebuffed she does not answer, “Who are you?” and leave in anger, but drops further on her face, pleading for “the leavings that fall from [the] masters’ tables.” And so she shows the Lord the “great faith” even we Gentiles can exhibit; and so she wins a hearing not only for herself but all people of foreign nations who, like Ruth, are able to say in truth: May your God be my God (see Ru.1:16). And so her daughter finds the healing touch of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, the promise given the people of Israel is now for all of us to share, if we have but faith – if we but have the love of God burning in our hearts. And so, “rise up, let us go to Zion, to the Lord, our God” and “enjoy the fruits” He offers forth for all His many sheep. This Canaanite woman came “shouting after” Him and found the ear of the God of the universe; let us now “shout with joy for Jacob” and with Jacob, as we celebrate the glory of the Lord here present in our midst.
O LORD, gather us all into your arms.
YHWH, you restore the fortunes of Jacob; his house you rebuild and your blessings he finds. Jesus has indeed come to the lost sheep of Israel, for they are your chosen sons and daughters. You have loved them from of old and your mercy remains upon them.
But if we come on our knees before you, LORD, we who are but dogs, perhaps the leavings of your table we may find, and so share in your blessings with the chosen ones. Faith is open to men of all nations, and it is this alone that will enable us to enter your House.
O let us rise up and go to Zion! Let us climb the heights of your mountain and fall at the feet of your Son. His mercy He cannot withhold from any who beg of Him. As a Shepherd guide us, O LORD, that we might find rest in you, that we might be fruitful in your NAME and come to praise you in the joy of your kingdom.
Mon, 3 August 2020
(Jer.30:1-2,12-15,18-22; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mt.15:1-2,10-14)
“Every planting not put down by my heavenly Father
will be uprooted.”
Is it not these Pharisees of whom Jeremiah speaks when he prophesies, “Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise”? Truly there is “no remedy for [their] running sore, no healing for [them].” Blind shall they ever be, for they do but harden their hearts when their sin is brought up before their eyes.
And so, though Jesus comes to “restore the tents of Jacob,” “when the Lord has rebuilt Zion and appeared in His glory,” where shall they be? Where are they now as He brings this to pass in their very presence? Is it not so that they cannot see? And so, as “the peoples gather together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord,” they can only remain outside His house knocking so vainly...
“It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him impure; it is what comes out of his mouth.” With this simple declaration the Lord turns the eyes of all ancient religions – set so much on the letter of the law, witnessed in the washing of hands and the preparation of food for the body (which shall but die one day) – in upon themselves. With this essential challenge all are forced to examine their faith and discover upon what it rests. Is it truly upon the Almighty God, who is “heavenly,” who is Spirit? Or is it upon their own belly? It is a hard look that must be taken if one is to be drawn into the renewed covenant and anointed by its blood. (How else shall one stand in the overwhelming light of His glory?)
It shall be so that “all your lovers have forgotten you”: anything upon which you set your heart that is short of the Almighty God shall indeed but rot, shall be exposed for all its vanity. And though it seems at this time that the Lord has “struck you as an enemy would strike,” that He has “punished you cruelly,” know that it is “because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, [He has] done this to you,” that He might uproot these from your midst – that you might not be uprooted from His presence.
O LORD, keep us from the pit;
forgive our sins
and let our house be rebuilt from its ruins.
YHWH, you open the eyes of the blind and save those who have strayed so far from your love. You desire to rebuild the ruins of Zion, and so you send your Son to teach us of your presence within. Help us to set our hearts on your kingdom that we might be as your temple, as your own kin.
It is through Jesus your compassion comes to us, LORD. We were destined for death, sitting in a land of darkness and gloom, overwhelmed by our sins; but you enabled us to approach your throne and find healing for our souls through the grace and mercy of your only Son. Remember us, that we might praise you through all generations.
How sick we were, LORD, indeed at the point of death, headed for an empty pit. But you turn our eyes from our running sore to look upon your majesty. In your pity you heard the groaning of these prisoners and raised us from the mire. O may we stand firm on your holy mountain, planted securely in your love.
Sun, 2 August 2020
(Jer.28:1-17; Ps.119:29,43,68,79-80,95,102; Mt.14:22-36)
“Let those turn to me who fear you
and acknowledge your decrees.”
Hananiah does not fear the Lord; he cares nothing for His decrees. And so he prophesies that the Lord will bring “the vessels of the house of the Lord and all the exiles back from Babylon” within two years, though the Lord has not said this. And he refuses to turn to Jeremiah – who does acknowledge the Lord’s decrees and speaks only truth – hardening himself against the word and the will of the Lord even unto his death. How foolish to have “false confidence,” to have no fear of God and His prophets. “Rebellion against the Lord” can but bring destruction to the proud soul.
And what of the fear the disciples exhibit throughout our gospel today: the fear of the boat “being tossed about in the waves raised by strong head winds”; their terror at seeing Jesus “walking on the water” in the middle of the night (“‘It is a ghost!’ they said.”); Peter’s fear of sinking in the water... Is this the fear the Lord desires of His chosen ones? No. For this is the fear of a faithless soul disturbed by the distractions the devil might raise, not the fear of the Lord. The fear the Lord requires we see after Jesus “had climbed into the boat, [and] the wind died down.” Here read of the fear of the Lord: “Those who were in the boat showed Him reverence, declaring, ‘Undoubtedly you are the Son of God!’”
Acknowledge Him we must. To His feet we must bring all our sickness, all our blindness. Knowing that by His word alone we are saved, that in His presence alone do we find our home, our harbor in this storm – this is the fear which must burn in our hearts. There is no other way. There is no other word which has weight. Only His hand reaches out and lifts us up from drowning in the waves. And for this we honor Him. For the law of His mouth we praise His name. For what does He speak but our salvation? What does He come across the lake bringing us but assistance in our exile here? And so, what should we do but reverence His eminent grace? Let the Lord be praised!
O LORD, by your Word save me;
with your hand raise me up.
YHWH, you destroy all falsehood from among us; from our hearts you remove all fear. And so, we praise you for your glory, for truly you are our LORD and God.
Across the waters you send your Son, to calm our hearts and remove all fear. Into our boats He climbs, bringing your peace, LORD, and by His hand all are healed.
Let us not be blind to His presence; let us not lack the faith to walk with Him. For His arms are always outstretched to catch us and gather us into your heart, O LORD.
There indeed is no falsehood in Him, or in the words He speaks to our souls. He is the true Prophet sent in your NAME, LORD, and we find refuge in obedience to His call.
O LORD, may our boat come soon to the shore we seek; with your Son at our side we are already with you. And let your Word of truth be in our mouth as well – let us speak only the words you inspire.
Fri, 31 July 2020
(Jer.26:11-16,24; Ps.69:14-16,30-31,33-34; Mt.14:1-12)
“In truth it was the Lord who sent me to you,
to speak all these things for you to hear.”
Jeremiah speaks to the people in the Lord’s name, even as he is threatened with death: “Reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the Lord your God, so that the Lord will repent of the evil with which He threatens you,” he declares at his trial – he does not hide the truth. And the words of David’s psalm are proven genuine: “His own who are in bonds He spurns not”; for the prophet’s words find a hearing in the people, and Ahikam advocates for his release.
It is the truth which John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets, comes to declare most boldly. Even from Herod’s dungeon this voice crying in the wilderness continues to proclaim the sinfulness of the king’s taking his own sister-in-law to wife, repeatedly telling him, “It is not right for you to live with her.” He, too, does not back down in the face of trials, in the dark of prison, and he, too, is released from bonds – though bonds of a different kind. He, too, is “rescued from [his] foes, and from the watery depths… The pit [does not] close its mouth over [him].” For though he be beheaded, though death at the hands of his persecutor he does not escape, yet it is his message which lives and has power, power shown now in the presence of the Truth walking the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ – a power which causes the evil king to shake in his boots at the voice which still comes to his ears. Indeed, John yet lives. In Jesus he makes his home.
“I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.” For all His “lowly ones” He sees; all who “seek God” are known to Him. And these shall be released from all bonds of this earth, even as they speak His truth.
The party shall soon be over, the dance of the daughter of lust come to an end. And who shall stand justified then? Who shall hear His soothing words? And who shall be condemned? Turn to Him in your hearts this day. Listen to His voice.
O LORD, save us from the dungeon of death;
lift us from the mire of this corrupted world –
let us repent that we might praise you.
YHWH, it is you who are our secure protection, you who save us even from death, you who raise our heads in the joy of your presence. And so, what need we fear? Let the wicked of this world tremble before your voice, but let us be blessed to dwell with you in your kingdom.
O LORD, though your prophets and disciples be cast into dungeons, though they be beheaded for your NAME’s sake, though the princes of this world call for the death of those who proclaim your truth to their unyielding hearts… yet you are there to protect your own, for your power is beyond any creature crawling upon this desolate earth.
And so we take refuge in you, LORD; and so we stand strong in the face of our persecutors. For we shall not die at their hands but live in your presence, as your saints do even this day. Give us the strength we need to place our trust entirely in you and in your Son, for we know even as we die with Him we shall live with Him forever.
Thu, 30 July 2020
(Jer.26:1-9; Ps.69:5,8-10,14; Mt.13:54-58)
“No prophet is without honor,
except in his native place, indeed in his own house.”
How consonant are our readings today, speaking all of the persecution the prophet of God must bear in bringing the truth to His people. (Indeed I had thought to refer to the incident in our gospel before having even come to it, while still reading the words from Jeremiah, for elsewhere in the gospels the same quote of Jesus written above causes His people to lead Him to the brow of a hill, intending to throw Him down.)
As Jesus was rejected when He “went to His native place and spent His time teaching in their synagogue,” so when Jeremiah is obedient to the Lord’s command to “stand in the court of the house of the Lord and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord … all the people gathered about [him],” not to “listen and turn back, each from his evil way,” but to join with “the priests and prophets [who] laid hold of him, crying, ‘You must be put to death!’” And David bemoans the same treatment in our psalm: “I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons,” as for the sake of the Lord he “bear[s] insult.”
What does the prophet come to do; what does Jesus speak to His people but truth? They themselves recognize that He has great “wisdom and miraculous powers.” With these He would save their very lives; His sword of truth would incise every cancerous growth of sin from their souls – He would heal them with the Word of God. In fact, it is their health He is so zealous to effect. But “because zeal for [the Lord’s] house consumes [Him]… the insults of those who blaspheme [God] fall upon [Him].” As they do upon Jeremiah. As they do upon David… As they do upon every faithful prophet of God.
Those who “disobey [God], not living according to the law [He] placed before [them] and not listening to the words of [His] servants the prophets,” do not wish to hear of their sin: foolishly, they would be left to die in their rebellion. And so they kill the prophet, attempting vainly to destroy His message. And it must be those of the Lord’s own house that reject His word, that kill the Christ, for it is only they who know His voice speaking in their heart.
“This city shall be desolate and deserted.” Hear these words, brothers and sisters. Let them sink deeply into your ears and take root in your hearts. Be not afraid of the death that must come to this earthen vessel. Nor reject the word because it comes from one who is your own brother. It is this sword of truth alone that will save you.
O LORD, your Son’s own brothers surrounded Him
and condemned Him to death –
forgive us, LORD, and let us be faithful as He.
YHWH, why are our hearts so set against your will that we would persecute your prophets and kill your only Son? Why are we so stubborn in our rejection of your love, of your chastising word that would bring us to your holy presence? It should be your temple in which we desire to dwell, and yet we seek to build our own.
O holy LORD, take the blasphemy from our lips, the anger and hatred from our hands and tongue. Let us see and recognize that you are God and treasure the wisdom you bring to us. Let us not turn our backs or raise our hands against you, but rather bear the insult of those who suffer for the sake of your NAME.
You look upon our zeal for you and for your house, LORD, and so hear us as we cry to you. Protect us well from the devastation of this fallen race, that we might accomplish your will and come to stand with you in Heaven. In your House alone let us seek to dwell.
Wed, 29 July 2020
(Jer.18:1-6; Ps.146:1-6; Mt.13:47-53)
“Like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
“I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel.” According to the Lord’s words Jeremiah goes, and a marvelous sign is provided him. For there in the hands of the potter and in his work, he sees the Lord huddled over His creation. And what in particular does he witness in this vision: “Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.” Are we not indeed like this clay in the potter’s hands? Does He not send His only Son to remake us in His image? And so, should we not be as pliable as clay in the holy hands of our Lord and God?
And are we not as those caught in the net of the fishermen who, having “collected all sorts of things… put what was worthwhile into containers. [But] what was useless they threw away.” Yes, at the end of the world “angels will go out and separate the wicked from the just,” and then the hand of the Lord will be at work in its fullness. So, while there is yet time, let us do all we can to be remade in God’s image, that we might avoid “the fiery furnace” – let us not be hardened in our sin. For once cast in this kiln, what shall they do but “wail and grind their teeth”?
Brothers and sisters, do you not see that it is the Lord “who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them”? It is the Lord who holds all in His holy hands, and does what He will with the universe. And so, should you not take refuge in Him? “Put not your trust in princes, in men, in whom there is no salvation.” What is man who “when his spirit departs he returns to the earth”? When God removes His breath from man, indeed he becomes as nothing but clay in a potter’s hands. But “happy he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God.” For the one who trusts in Him, He shall remake in His own eternal image; upon this clay His breath shall remain. And so his soul shall ever “praise the Lord.”
O LORD, all is in your hands;
may our hands and our hearts
be conformed to your own.
YHWH, we are indeed as clay in your holy hands; you can make of us what you will. And so we pray you make us in the image of your Son, that we will be gathered into your kingdom and not cast aside.
We are but dust, O LORD, except that you breathe upon us. And should you take your Spirit from us, to dust we would return. Yet we fail to recognize your power and glory and put our trust in the dust of this earth, in the things you have created. It is you who have made the heavens and the earth and all that dwell in them. It is you who hold the life breath of all men. O let us worship you alone and seek to be remade in your image! Then to eternal life we shall come.
The fiery furnace awaits the wicked; let us not forget that you will separate the evil from the good at the end of the age. May your angels’ hands be upon us this day, preparing our souls for the end of the world, forming us by your grace as your blessed children. Praise you, LORD!
Tue, 28 July 2020
(Jer.15:10,16-21; Ps.59:2-4,10-11,17-18; Mt.13:44-46)
“If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand.”
The Lord called Jeremiah even from before he was formed in his mother’s womb, but it seems he falls short of fulfilling that call, for the Lord says to His prophet today, “If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece.” Indeed it seemed that Christ’s words in His parable today – “The reign of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field” – had been realized in Jeremiah, who declares, “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became the joy and the happiness of my heart.” Yet it seems the prophet struggles to heed the Lord’s instruction to “put up for sale all he had,” to give up all else to receive fully the gift of God’s gracious presence.
Jeremiah complains to God, “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” And what is this pain but the persecution he continually finds as “a man of strife and contention to all the land”? The Lord has called him to be a continual sign of contradiction toward His rebellious house, and the difficulties of this cross he must bear move the prophet toward despair.
What is the “vile” matter of which Jeremiah must “repent” to become “a solid wall of brass” in his mission for God? It is, I believe, the “indignation” he says he has toward his fellow people, who, though evil in the sight of God, must be borne with patience, according to the Lord’s call. It is his failure to be as really only Christ is – able to forgive His persecutors even as He stands nailed to the cross. Jeremiah must accept his weakness and trials, as does Paul later, but struggles greatly in this time before the coming of the Son.
Yet the Lord promises to “free [him] from the hand of the wicked, and rescue [him] from the grasp of the violent.” Yet the Lord is with him to answer his prayer when he cries out as has David, “Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; from my adversaries defend me.” And yet he will know what David proclaims: “You have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of distress.” For whoever cries out to Him from the cross, the Lord hears; and to him He brings the greatest treasure of all – His own presence within him.
(If you would find this “pearl” of greatest value, brothers and sisters, in a word, learn to love thy enemy.)
O LORD, you will defend us if we but trust in you;
why do we not make you our pearl of great price?
YHWH, you free us from the hand of the wicked, the grasp of the violent, for you are our refuge, our stronghold; and so, what need we fear? Let us trust in you and bear our Cross in joy.
LORD, if we are to be your disciples, your prophets – your light – we cannot be less than you are. If with anger or indignation we speak to your people, how can it be you who are calling them to repentance? We must first repent ourselves of any vile matter that may be polluting our souls, and then we can serve as your image in this world. Help us to set aside all sin and attachment to sin that we might find you at work in our lives.
O LORD, it is you who are the pearl of great price and so we should treasure above all our service of you and the persecution it necessarily brings. Would we be other than you were among us? Should we lay down our cross? Never, I pray. Rather, let us freely lay down our lives that we might find them in you.
Mon, 27 July 2020
(Jer.14:17-22; Ps.79:8-9,11,13; Mt.13:36-43)
“Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.”
If the prophet’s “eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of [his] people, over her incurable wound,” how many more tears will there be “at the end of the world” when the “weeds are collected and burned”? For in our first reading Jeremiah sees “those slain by the sword” and “those consumed by hunger,” suffering enough to bring tears – but this “blow” struck by the Lord is not one which “cannot be healed.” “A time of healing” shall indeed come as the nation is brought back from exile only seventy years after its being taken; and soon Jesus shall come to “free [all] those doomed to death,” to set prisoners free… to make permanent the compassionate deliverance of the Lord God. But at the end of the age, when Jesus comes again and finally, the sentence that is passed against those who have sinned shall have no means of repeal; the death upon souls shall be everlasting.
In our gospel today Jesus speaks in plain terms as He explains “the parable of the weeds in the field.” This is no mere fable but the delineation of the harvest time that shall come upon all. To heaven or to hell all shall go, and there shall be no more changing: no more opportunity for redemption for those set upon evil, and no more faltering into wickedness for those set upon good. Great shall be the eternal gifts showered upon the blessed, but what of the wailing then… what of the wailing?
“We have sinned against you.” “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness.” We pray you shall “remember your covenant with us,” and from all our sin set us free. “Deliver us and pardon our sins” and we “will give thanks to you forever; through all generations we will declare your praise.” Keep us safe from your judgment on the Last Day. Do not “cast [us] off completely,” but raise our lowly hearts unto your kingdom.
O LORD, we are doomed to death for our sin,
but Jesus comes to save us from the fiery furnace
that we might shine your light forever in the kingdom.
YHWH, remember not against us the iniquities of the past but let us be purged of all sin, that we might shine with you in your kingdom. For the glory of your NAME forgive our wickedness and let us share your glory in your holy Day.
You are right to punish us, LORD, and to condemn us if we harden our hearts on the day of judgment. But we beg you to hear the sighing of the prisoners and free those doomed to death. Make us as the sheep of your pasture and we will give thanks to you forever.
Our very lives are dependent on you, LORD our God. We cannot eat or breathe except that you feed us, except that you give life to our souls. If you remove your providential hand, we cannot but be destroyed, we cannot but perish in our sins. But you are our Savior – let your will be accomplished among us and let us be redeemed! Save us from the fiery furnace and let us stand as citizens of your kingdom, Father of us all.
Sun, 26 July 2020
(Jer.13:1-11; Dt.32:18-21; Mt.13:31-35)
“You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.
You forgot the God who gave you birth.”
So Moses says of the people he led through the desert. So Jeremiah is told of the Lord’s chosen at the time of the Babylonian exile. So it is with those who are deaf to Jesus’ parables. And so we, too, forget the Lord whenever we turn from Him in sin.
So close were the Lord’s children to Him and His blessings: “As close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord.” The God of earth and heaven calls them “my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.” He has set them aside to be His own, to make them holy in the eyes of the world. “But they did not listen.” But they did not remain faithful. Going after “strange gods to serve and adore them,” they showed themselves to be “sons with no loyalty in them.” And so they became “rotted, good for nothing.”
How sad is sin. “What a fickle race [we] are.” For all we need the Lord provides, yet we “walk in the stubbornness of [our] hearts” a path away from Him, apart from His love. And now Jesus “announce[s] what has lain hidden since the creation of the world.” In parables He speaks of the kingdom of God. But how many hearts are closed to His teaching? How many “refuse to obey [His] words?” And should the Lord not therefore be “filled with loathing and anger toward His sons and daughters”?
The kingdom of heaven cannot grow in us if we separate ourselves from Jesus. As Israel and Judah were cast off, so shall we be, if we do not heed His commands. Following the “vain idols” of the nations will not bring us to His kingdom, but only make us abominable in His sight. And what horror to lose His blessing, to turn our renown and beauty to an everlasting curse.
It need not be so. To Him we can return, with open ears and understanding hearts and light thus filling our eyes. Remaining ever in His presence, remembering His Name, He who has planted us as seed “in His field,” He who has given birth to new life within us, will see that each day we grow. And on the last Day we shall be formed in His image.
O LORD, your Son announces the kingdom of God;
let us listen to His voice and turn from our disloyalty,
that we might enter His reign.
YHWH, you are hidden within Creation and so within us; from the beginning you are with us, though we be blind to your presence. But your Son comes to reveal your glory, your blessing upon our souls. You are our very life – let us not turn away from your love.
To the Word of your Son let us listen, LORD, that the humble seed He is might be planted well within our hearts and so grow unto eternity, and we might come to dwell with you. Let us rise with Him who has died for us, who has taken upon Himself the rottenness of our sin and stubborn pride.
We are good for nothing, LORD. Having provoked you with our disloyalty, what can we be but cut off from your grace and the light of your holy face. Yet you come to speak to our souls and call us home to you, if we would but listen. O let us heed your word of chastisement wherein is your call; let us understand the wisdom so hidden from our limited vision. May we learn our lesson well and so come to dwell in Heaven.
Thu, 23 July 2020
(Jer.3:14-17; Jer.31:10-13; Mt.13:18-23)
“At that time they will call Jerusalem the Lord’s throne;
there all nations will be gathered together
to honor the name of the Lord at Jerusalem.”
I would like today to focus the attention particularly of the Lord’s chosen race on the following prophecy of the great Jeremiah: “They will in those days no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord!’ or miss it, or make another.” For I must in obedience to the Spirit of Truth ask the question: If the temple of the Lord has been destroyed, how is it Judaism can be said to yet exist? With the discontinuance of the sacrifices, does the heart of the Mosaic Law not undergo a certain transformation? To the point: Does the sacrifice of Christ not supplant – even as it fulfills, perfectly – the Old Covenant? Is His blood poured upon the altar now and sprinkled upon all our souls, is it not this which gives birth to the New Jerusalem, where “they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings”?
And does not the destruction of the temple so soon after the death of Him who prophesied it in tears not substantiate His claim as the Temple not built by human hands? And does the fact that the ancient walls have remained in ruins for some two thousand years not indicate its permanent end? Would the Lord really wish it to be built again? And do you think He would leave you alone for so long a time? Has He not come?
My brothers, my sisters, should not he who has the deepest “roots” be the strongest tree reaching to the greatest heights? Is He not? And should you not be as this quintessential Jew, suffering for the sake of all at the hands of those who breathe condemnation? (Here is a message to those who would take the Lord’s justice in their violent hands – you shall not escape condemnation for your sin. Whatever good may seem to result from your prideful persecution, though His chosen may turn at your threat, yet your sin will be remembered.)
“Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion.” This word is for all who understand “the message about God’s reign” Jesus comes to sow in receptive hearts. And so, “hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts” to all God’s “rebellious children,” to all who yet walk “in their hardhearted wickedness” – for all may now “become fruitful in the land.” (And you, brother Catholic, do you know the blessing that is upon you; do you see that you stand in the New Jerusalem?) But still the chosen are called first of all; still the Lord waits for those most blessed, to pour His new graces upon them.
Let no man’s soul be choked by “worldly anxiety”; let all come now to the Lord’s glorious throne, here in the heavenly Jerusalem.
O LORD, let us not falter along the way
but come streaming to your blessings.
YHWH, how shall we bear a fruitful yield, we who have been so rebellious? Have we not choked your Word off from our souls; are we not today void of the roots of your kingdom? Yet you remain as a Shepherd who cares for His flock, you continue in your love for us, and so you call us back to the land set aside for our flourishing – you ransom us from our sin that your City we might enter with dancing.
Open our ears to hear the Word of your Son. Open our hearts to receive your grace. Let us be planted in good soil, in the flesh of Jesus; let us be as the New Jerusalem. In the Temple of His Body let us make our home, all hardness of heart taken from us. O LORD, let us again be blessed to be your children, washed clean by the blood of the Christ.
These waters from Heaven fall upon our souls that indeed we might grow and produce an abundant harvest in your NAME, O LORD.
Wed, 22 July 2020
(Jer.2:1-3,7-8,12-13; Ps.36:6-11; Mt.13:10-17)
“They look but do not see,
they listen but do not hear or understand.”
Oh how “sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of His harvest.” And oh how they loved the Lord “as a bride,” following Him so closely. But oh how they have forgotten “the devotion of their youth” and turned from Him. For when He “brought [them] into the garden lands to eat its goodly fruits,” they did not seek Him from whom all their blessings flowed, but rather “entered and defiled [His] land,” and “made [His] heritage loathsome.” So blindly “they have forsaken [the Lord], the source of living waters [and] have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” And so, how empty of life they have become.
And so Jesus echoes Isaiah’s prophecy upon the people today, declaring it now fulfilled: “Listen as you will, you shall not understand, look intently as you will, you shall not see.” Though the Son of God stand before them, though their blessing is complete in their midst, strain as they might they cannot see what is so obvious – for “sluggish indeed is this people’s heart.” Too long have they turned their sights away from Him, and now what shall refresh their vision?
Should they not sing with David of the Lord’s glory – “How precious is your kindness, O God!” Should they not “take refuge in the shadow of [His] wings?” Does He not spread them above them this day? In Jesus should they not “have their fill of the prime gifts of [His] house”; does the Lord not “give them to drink” from this “delightful stream”? Then why are their mouths closed to receiving this precious gift offered upon His altar? Is He not the holy sacrifice of the covenant renewed? Is it not so that in drinking His blood all find life? Is He not the source of living water?
O Lord, “with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” Awaken our hearts to see your face; let us “turn back to [you]” that you may “heal [us].” For you are Light and Life itself, and all our blessings flow from you and from your Body and Blood offered for our sakes. In your Son may we find again our home; may our hearts be open to understand your love present in our midst.
O LORD, let us be blessed
to hear your word of forgiveness,
we who have blinded ourselves to your good gifts.
YHWH, you are the fountain of life, the source of living water; in you we find all blessings. You provide for all our needs, planting us in a garden land filled with good fruits. You make us as your holy Bride – such is your love for your faithful child.
But we are not faithful to you, O LORD. We do not drink from the fountain of living water but dig for ourselves broken cisterns, the creation of our soiled hands, of our wayward hearts and minds. And so our soul languishes in a foreign land.
How shall you heal our blindness, LORD? How shall our ears open to your Word? How shall we return to you and find again your blessing? Your kindness knows no bounds and so you send your Son among us. To His teaching let us be obedient; let our hearts open before Him that we might be redeemed.
How blessed are we to have the living God in our midst, His face shining upon us, His voice speaking to our hearts… O LORD, take not your Son from us, but let us be healed by His presence.
Mon, 20 July 2020
(Mic.7:14-15,18-20; Ps.85:2-8; Mt.12:46-50)
“Then extending His hands to His disciples, He said,
‘There are my mother and my brothers.’”
The Lord’s blessing rests upon all who worship Him in spirit and in truth, and it comes to us primarily through the forgiveness of our sins. For the Lord extends His hands to His disciples first of all to “cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.” This is His principal work, He whose name means “God saves.” And by such compassion poured upon us, by His “treading underfoot our guilt,” we are drawn into His holy fold; we become “the flock of His inheritance” by the death that brings us life.
“Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of His inheritance?” Who indeed is like Jesus? For He dies and we live. He washes us clean of sin, and we become His children. Though we deserve His “burning anger,” He abandons not us but “[His] displeasure against us.” He “does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency,” a clemency that not only forgives but redeems – for Jesus also extends His hands to His disciples to gather them into the Father’s arms.
“You have favored, O Lord, your land; you have restored the well-being of Jacob. You have forgiven the guilt of your people; you have covered all their sins.” How shall we thank you, Lord, who “grant us our salvation”? How shall we praise you, Lord, whose “kindness” has made us your own? “Shall not your people rejoice in you?” Will we not sing of your glory forever? Will we not stand in your presence and serve you for all ages to come? “You have withdrawn all your wrath.” You “will again have compassion on us.” In you we take refuge always, as your blessed daughters and sons.
O Mother in heaven, pray for us,
that children of the Lord we shall ever remain,
doing the will of the Father as thou hast done.
O LORD, could you be kinder
than to make us your own flesh and blood?
YHWH, shepherd your people; make us as your Son’s brothers and sisters – make us as His Mother. Forgive us our sins that we might be gathered into your outstretched arms.
How kind you are to us, dear LORD, how compassionate. Who could imagine such a love as makes us one with God Himself? Who could have believed you would send your only Son, your very self, into our midst to save us and make us your inheritance? Your kindness is unsurpassable – no greater gift could we find.
Be not angry with us for our sins this day, O LORD, but grant us your mercy as you do for all your children who turn to you. Make us your disciples, truly brothers and sisters of Jesus, one with the Blessed Mother and all the saints. Into your kingdom let us come; let us pasture on your holy mountain.
How blessed are we when your anger is passed, dear LORD. Let us be your flock, living in your peace even this day.
Sun, 19 July 2020
(Mic.6:1-4,6-8; Ps.50:5-6,8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.12:38-42)
“The Lord has a plea against His people,
and He enters into trial with Israel.”
“God Himself is the judge,” brothers and sisters. And so He declares: “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” All are brought before His throne, and all must “present [their] plea” in His presence.
And what shall we say on that Day? Will you “come before Him with holocausts, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil?” Hear His word to His people: it is not these the Lord desires. It is not the sacrifices offered in the temple built by human hands the Lord seeks of His chosen ones. The temple He has destroyed, and with it the vain works of the flesh. It is now the Lord’s desire that you but “walk humbly with your God.” And so He promises: “To Him that goes the right way I will show the saving power of God,” and proclaims, “He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me.”
Oh how we should praise Him! He who is “greater than Jonah” and “greater than Solomon.” Oh how we should repent and reform our lives at His preaching! Oh how we should walk in the light of His wisdom! But are we not too often like those who offer vain sacrifice and seek to have our eyes impressed by some extraordinary sign? The sign stands before us. But all too often we are as faithless and blind as the scribes and Pharisees in our gospel today.
What a terrible thought that we might be condemned for our lack of faith by the “citizens of Nineveh” and “the queen of the South,” who needed so little, really, to believe in the greatness of the Lord. Has He not “brought [us] up from the land of Egypt”? Has He not released us from “the place of slavery”? Why do we so soon forget what the ancients knew by much less? Is not Jesus in our midst this day?
Let us not be blind to His presence, and let us not offer our sacrifice unworthily. For here before us stands the Lord of all; into our souls and bodies we receive Him by Word and by Sacrament. All He asks of us is our faith. And will we believe Him? Or is our worship only on the tongue and not burning in our heart? Let Him not find you faithless this day.
O LORD, teach us your way of humility;
let us seek only to be as you.
YHWH, how can we seek a sign from you when it is we who should be offering a sign to you, and more than a sign – our very lives. For your Son comes to us bringing salvation to our souls and teaching us the way to find it; should we not repent of our sin, rend our hearts before Him, and praise you for your mercy this day?
But we have not faith, LORD, and so we come only with vain sacrifices, mere words on our lips and a heart seeking our own will to be done. We would create you – but it is you who have created us! You have created us and you would redeem us, and so you enter into trial with us to see if we shall merit your love. Bring our sins up before our eyes, that by your grace we might turn from them and walk humbly with you.
Why should we even need your Son to be buried in the earth, LORD? Should our faith not recognize you before us without such a sign? Ah, but we are blind, so blind. Discipline us in your love that we might reform our lives and find the way to you.
Fri, 17 July 2020
(Mic.2:1-5; Ps.10:1-4,7-8,12,14; Mt.12:14-21)
“When the Pharisees were outside
they began to plot against Jesus
to find a way to destroy Him.”
Is it not of these David sings when he declares, “He lurks in ambush near the villages; in hiding he murders the innocent; his eyes spy upon the unfortunate”? And though He withdraw from them this day, though He will silently subject Himself to torture and death at their hands, be assured that the Lord is “planning against this race an evil from which [they] shall not withdraw [their] necks.”
“Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches.” And what greater woe can there be than for the one who plots disaster upon the head of the Chosen One? These are they who would “cheat [the] owner of his house, a man of his inheritance”; for here is the One of whom Isaiah prophesies in the name of the Lord: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight.” Yet by “cursing, guile, and deceit” these would steal the inheritance of the only Son. But the Lord shall not “stand aloof” forever, and over these soon “shall be sung… a plaintive chant: ‘Our ruin is complete, our fields are portioned out among our captors.’” What the Lord has promised He has accomplished in wresting the House of God from the disobedient and placing it in the hands of His children of light.
Now the Lord does “proclaim justice to the Gentiles.” And we who suffer with Him, we “the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked has contrived,” rejoice in the knowledge that “judgment is made victorious” in Him – “on [Him] the unfortunate man depends,” and his fortunes are made prosperous as the Lord’s own.
“‘There is no God,’ sums up his thoughts,” the evil one who turns from the Lord. But the One they kill is God Himself, whose patient endurance of their crown of thorns shall bring the wicked to ruin. Caught in their own snares, “misery and sorrow” shall be theirs forever, even as the Lord and His anointed find release from the plots of men and are gathered into the kingdom of heaven.
The beast is slain by a word from His mouth, opened on that Day; though silent now His redeeming Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, setting free all suffering prisoners.
O LORD, we find our hope in you,
for you save the poor and afflicted soul
even as you destroy his wicked tormentors.
YHWH, look upon the afflicted who are pursued as was your Son; you see our misery and sorrow – save us from the plottings of men.
The greedy and deceitful you will thwart, O LORD. The violent you will destroy. You will save your poor ones who cry out to you; the plans of the wicked will not succeed.
Though your Son is captured by their snares, though the hands of men take hold of His body and nail it to the Cross, they will find, O LORD, they cannot touch His Spirit, and that Spirit will bring them to ruin.
On the third day He rises from the dead, LORD, and so we shall rise with Him. Though trodden down and deprived of our earthly possessions, yet forever we shall live in the riches of Heaven.
Silently let your Word go forth now, LORD, calling all to repentance and healing. All you give opportunity to turn to you – crush us not till we know your mercy upon our souls.
Thu, 16 July 2020
(Is.38:1-8,21-22; Is.38:10-12,16-17; Mt.12:1-8)
“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall
and prayed to the Lord.”
“When Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: ‘Thus says the Lord: Put your house in order, for you are about to die.’” When the Jewish race was about to perish for lack of love, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the Pharisees and declared, “It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.” And if they heed not His word, they indeed shall die.
But will what occurred “in those days” with the king of Judah recur with these leaders of the Jews? Will they, too, turn their face to the wall and cry out to the Lord? For there is a greater threat than “the hand of the king of Assyria” upon their race now. Here is a greater threat than death. The condemnation they cast so freely upon “innocent men” now begins to overshadow their souls.
“To the gates of the netherworld I shall be consigned for the rest of my years,” Hezekiah cries out; and indeed his fears shall be realized in these. For they “shall see no more the Lord in the land of the living” if they refuse to see Him here as He stands before them. They shall know no longer the mercy that sustains all life if they harden their hearts to Him who holds that mercy in His flesh and blood.
The Lord seeks to open their eyes and their hearts to the power and love of God. By their own Scripture and history and law He proves their judgment wrong, asking, “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry…? Have you not read in the law how the priests on temple duty can break the sabbath without incurring guilt?” But yet would they condemn King David and the temple priests, placing their own judgment over the law of the love of God.
I fear for them, brothers and sisters, as for all who are obstinate of heart. For here are the chosen of God. Here are those graced with the Lord’s promise. But what shall become of their blessing if they reject the Promise when He stands before them? What shall become of those who turn the grace of God to empty wind? Oh how their bones shall rot! Oh how the fears of Hezekiah shall be fulfilled! Oh that they could hear the words the Lord speaks to His repentant king: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.” Oh that they would know the mercy of God.
To Him may all come, for He who stops the sun and moves it back upon its course indeed holds all in His loving hands. The Temple of the Lord is here.
O LORD, you raise us up from death,
from condemnation for our sins,
for you are the LORD our God.
YHWH, have mercy on our poor, judgmental souls, for we have come close to death because of our sins, for the lack of mercy we have shown. But you are not like us, for you have pity on those who cry out to you, on those who hunger for your food – hear us as we cry to you this day for your forgiveness upon our souls, that even this day we might live in your sight.
Our sins would have cut off our life, LORD; our disobedience but brings us to the nether world. But Jesus is Son of Man and God like you and He walks amongst us as your mercy, seeking to redeem our fallen souls from the grave we have made by our transgressions. And He brings us new life.
O LORD, let the days be turned back that we might make amends for our past sins, that we might have years to reform our lives and set our house in order for your Son’s return. If you had not mercy upon us, we would already be dead, doomed by our disobedience. But remember us and make us faithful and wholehearted in your sight; feed us with the Bread of life.
Wed, 15 July 2020
(Is.26:7-9,12,16-19; Ps.102:13-21; Mt.11:28-30)
“The Lord looked down from His holy height,
from heaven He beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
Yes, “we cried out in anguish under [His] chastising. As a woman about to give birth… we conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind.” Empty were our works; dead in sin were we. But the Lord took pity on His people. Though “oppressed by [His] punishment” and as prisoners in chains, the time arrived for Him to “arise and have mercy on Zion.” And so He sent His Son.
“My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you.” Because even in death His faithful set their hearts on Him and make Him the “desire of [their] souls,” He comes. “He has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer.” Though afflicted by sin, the Lord looks upon our tears; and His heart breaks with ours, and the light walks among us… and Jesus comes. And Jesus comes.
Hear the words of our Lord: “Your souls will find rest.” He promises us His peace. Though heavy burdened with the weight of this dark world, He is here to save us. How do we find such peace? How do we find release from the prison in which we are confined? Heed His instruction; “take [His] yoke upon your shoulders and learn from [Him].” And what is this yoke in which you will find your freedom? It is nothing else but the cross.
The Lord has looked down from heaven; He has sent His Son forth from His throne. And what does He come bearing “to release those doomed to die”? Yes, it is a cross He carries. Our sins and our pain He takes upon Himself. Only through this instrument of salvation, only through the flesh of Christ fastened to the wood – only by the nails which pierce His hands and feet are we brought life. For He cries with us in anguish: He dies with us in pain. And the Lord’s pity is realized, the mercy of God fulfilled… and washed are we in this blood from sin, and our cry thus taken away.
And we must do the same as He. We must die, too. We must unite ourselves to His cross, and let Him take all pain from our souls. And so we shall be whole. And so the cry shall be no more. And so we shall never die. “Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust,” for your “corpses shall arise.”
O LORD, we were doomed to die
but you heard our cry
and sent your Son to save us by His Cross –
let us share in His mercy this day.
YHWH, have mercy on Zion, on your children who cry out to you in the night, in the night that is our life in this world. Regard the prayer of your poor ones; look down from your holy height and have pity on us. Send your Son to save us from our pain, from our sin, by the grace of the Cross He bears.
We have given birth to wind, O LORD. In vanity we have lived our lives. But we look to you to redeem us from such emptiness, from the darkness which besets our hearts. You bring peace to us; your Son grants us the salvation we could not achieve on our own. O let us take up His gentle yoke that we might find rest for our souls.
Thank you for your mercy, Jesus, for coming among us in gentleness and humility and carrying our burden of pride away. Let us come to you now, as you call us; let us find the refreshment you offer in your Cross. Upon our shoulders let us take your light burden, that we might know your judgment is removed from us in the sacrifice you have made.
Tue, 14 July 2020
(Is.10:5-7,13-16; Ps.94:5-10,14-15; Mt.11:25-27)
“Shall He who instructs nations not chastise,
He who teaches men knowledge?”
Again we learn the basic teaching of the Lord: The exalted are humbled and the humbled exalted. In our first reading “the Lord of hosts” promises to “send among His fat ones leanness” – condemning Assyria for the pride it takes in its “own power”; and in our gospel Jesus “offer[s] praise” to His “Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” declaring, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children.” “Judgment shall again be with justice,” for the Lord shall raise those who have been “trample[d] down” even as He topples the pride of the wicked.
Assyria boasts, “I am shrewd” and proclaims itself “a giant.” But truly he is a fool who exalts himself above the power of the Lord and does not see that all things are done only in Him. Yes, with what wisdom Isaiah speaks when he questions: “Will the axe boast against him who hews with it?” and, could a rod “sway him who lifts it, or a staff him who is not wood”? How clearly he exposes the foolishness of the vain boasting of those who are mighty in their own eyes.
And how well his lesson leads to Jesus’ own. “Everything has been given over to [Jesus] by [His] Father”: all power is in our Lord’s hands. And when He states, “No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son – and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him,” what is He saying but that no one comes to the Father, no one receives any blessing of the Father’s power and love, unless He humbles himself before Jesus who is the Chosen One? Nothing of God can anyone know, nothing of His power can we share – no salvation is found at all unless we come to Him as a child.
“Shall He who formed the ear not hear? Or He who formed the eye not see?” Do you believe your vision greater than His own? “Understand, you senseless ones among the people; and, you fools, when will you be wise.” For though these puffed-up souls “murder” “the fatherless” with their tongue, though “widow and stranger they slay” in their wicked deceit, the truth shall not escape them: justice shall indeed come. And as “the upright of heart… follow it” – follow the Lord of all to eternal glory – for those who take pride in their own power, “instead of His glory there will be kindling like the kindling of fire.” Know this, you who are slow to believe.
O LORD, let us be as your children,
doing your will in all humility.
YHWH, what greater knowledge can we have than to know you who know all things? Of what worth is our wisdom apart from you and your blessing? Vainly we toil upon this earth, seeking our own gain and falling into wickedness – reveal yourself to us that we might be raised from our blindness. Else we shall surely die.
Trusting in our own power, what a fateful path we tread, O LORD, for then we walk further and further from you, and so further and further from true light. In darkness we can but end, putting our faith thus in creatures. But if we turn to you, our Creator, and recognize your power over us, then we shall be blessed by your love, for then we shall enter your presence. Then we shall be doing your will and sharing in your wisdom, and so finding your light.
From all our wickedness let us turn, O LORD, by the grace of your chastisement, and let us be as children before you, obedient to your Word and so sharing in your life.
Mon, 13 July 2020
(Is.7:1-9; Ps.48:2-9; Mt.11:20-24)
“Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!”
“Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail.” For “great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God” and “renowned is He as a stronghold.” But the faithless shall be as the rebellious nations which came against the Lord and His anointed: these “shall not stand” but “shall be crushed.” Though “the kings assemble, [though] they come on together” against the “city of the great King,” they shall be seized with “quaking,” with “anguish, like a woman’s in labor.” They shall be “stunned, terrified, routed.”
And so Jesus proclaims His rebuke of Capernaum and the other “towns where most of His miracles had been worked.” So His severe reproach echoes to all faithless hearts, hearts which have refused His mercy, who have turned from His wonders: “I assure you, it will go easier for Sodom than for you on the day of judgment.” Sodom was burned with fire. There is no city greater known for sin than this profligate place which sought even the rape of the angels. And so, what shall be the fate of those who turn now from the preaching of Jesus, from His holy presence among us? What shall become indeed of the baptized who reject the grace at work in their souls? One can only shudder to think of the horrors built up by such turning away, by such “failure to reform.”
O Lord, how often I have turned from you; how little of your grace I have treasured in my soul. How little faith have I. And so, how I fear your mighty hand, your perfect, absolute light. Who shall stand in the purity of your love? Who can know your holiness? My heart condemns me of my sin; “in sackcloth and ashes” I come before you, seeking the strength found only in your touch. Send me not “down to the realm of death” but lift this faithless soul to your side. Let me fear no attack of the world. Enable me to stand in your light.
O LORD, make us your House, faithful and true,
that we might find your protection and glory.
YHWH, let us be your House, your holy City, faithful to you and so finding your secure protection and your blessing unto Heaven. Help us to reform our lives that we might be made entirely in your image.
Great are you, O LORD, and worthy of all our praise and worship. You alone are God and to you alone should we be devoted. It is you in whom we find our hope, you who are our stronghold. With you as our God, all our enemies flee before us, for it is you who fight for us against all the evils of this world.
For your miracles let us praise you, LORD; let us never be blind to your hand at work in our midst. Let us not be as ungrateful sons failing to recognize your goodness to us and the provisions you make for our inheritance. Let us rather be as your only Son, turning always to you and to the fulfillment of your will. Then we shall be like Him in your kingdom, seated with all your angels and saints around your holy throne. You alone are our King; let our enemies tremble before you.
Sun, 12 July 2020
(Is.1:10-17; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!”
Elsewhere in Scripture we read, “The Lord chastises those whom He loves” (Heb.12:6), and this truth is made evident in our readings today. The Lord commands us through the prophecy of Isaiah, “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” Our psalm continues the same theme, declaring again in the voice of God, “You hate discipline and cast my words behind you.” And the lesson is fulfilled in Jesus’ own admonishment: “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.”
How difficult for many to hear Jesus’ words: “My mission is to spread, not peace, but division.” How in conflict with their image of a pleasant Jesus placed so neatly in a politically proper box. How they would anesthetize themselves against the suffering of the cross. But the same Spirit who speaks through Isaiah, proclaiming, “Hear the word of the Lord, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!” is He who speaks through the Son, who Himself condemns the towns that do not receive His preaching and presence to a worse fate than these infamous cities. Our Lord is no less offended by “worthless offerings” and “octaves with wickedness.” He is no more deaf to our disobedience or blind to our sin. In fact, as He is the fulfillment of the love of God in the forgiveness and grace He offers all, so He is the fulfillment of God’s justice in the ultimate judgment of every soul.
“I will correct you by drawing [your sins] up before your eyes,” the Lord declares through our psalmist. And does not Jesus call the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” (Mt.12:34)? Does He not call Peter “Satan” (Mt.16:23)? Does He not open all our eyes to the sin upon our souls to save us from final damnation? If He did not do this, could He say He loves us? Is it not by this cross placed firmly upon our backs that we rise from the sin weighing down our hearts? Otherwise, would we not drown in sorrow?
Brothers and sisters, do not try to ration away your cross by vain supposition. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who would convince you there remains no place for the wood, for the blood. The world is ever and more a place of sin, and the devil ceases not to lead souls to perdition. Be warned by the Lord of all. Stand chastised in His love. Wash yourselves clean of all pride and vanity; be not as he who “brings himself to ruin.” You are called to be the Lord’s image in the world; and the Word made flesh ends His life on earth fixed to a cross. Accept His gift of love.
O LORD, let us be brought to nothing for you;
let all the sin within us die
that we might be your disciples.
YHWH, let us welcome you and your Word and those who bring it to us. Though your Word is hard, it is our means of salvation, for only the Son’s Cross leads to life; only your chastisement will break our hardened hearts. O let us love you above all others!
We are sinful, LORD, pretending a love that is empty and false. And so, what do we merit but condemnation for our turning our hearts from you? No better than the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah, our house is full of wickedness, our hands full of blood. We do all but to please ourselves; our sacrifices are but to feed our bellies, and so are no sacrifice at all. Bring our sins up before our eyes! that we might see and turn away from them.
Your sword, O LORD, your sword alone will separate us from our sinful deeds. Your Word alone will save our souls. Let us cherish your discipline as once we treasured the vain things of this world. The word of your prophets let us desire that we might receive a prophet’s reward.
Fri, 10 July 2020
(Is.6:1-8; Ps.93:1-2,5; Mt.10:24-33)
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,’
they cried one to the other.
‘All the earth is filled with His glory.’”
Hear the angels’ song. It is their praise, which fills the heavens like fragrant incense, that our psalmist proclaims: “The Lord is king, in splendor robed; robed is the Lord and girt about with strength.” Exalted is the majesty of the Father in heaven, upon whom no eye can gaze, and so of His Son. And rightly does the prophet Isaiah – “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” – fear having seen “the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple.”
And should we not fear Him, too? Should we not fear the glorious Son in whose light we dwell and in whose steps we follow? Do we realize His Majesty? Do we somehow presume to outrank our teacher, or are we as the pupil who is “glad to become like his teacher, the slave like his master”? If humbled before the Lord of all, we shall fear nothing of this world. Fearing Him who “can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna,” any power of the devil becomes as nothing in our sight. For we know our God holds every “single sparrow” in His Hand, and we “are worth more than a flock of sparrows.”
The Lord sends “one of the seraphim” to touch the lips of the prophet with an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” (So holy is the Lord that even the angels cannot touch His fire with their hands.) And so Isaiah’s “wickedness is removed, [his] sin purged.” And so he is sent, in turn, to proclaim the Word of God. First he must be purified; first we all must be purged of sin, for indeed “holiness befits [His] house” – holiness alone may stand in His presence, and only the tongue cleansed of stain can “speak in the light” the truth of our God. And as the prophet speaks, as the psalmist sings, so are we sent to proclaim the glory of “the King, the Lord of hosts.”
“Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O Lord.” You alone are holy. What can we pray but that the earth be filled with your glory, but that we shall enter your house and praise your name all the days we are blessed with life? Make us holy as thou art.
O LORD, you are the Almighty God
and we are your sons;
and so, how blessed we are to die with Jesus.
YHWH, holiness befits your house and only those who are holy enter there. And it is only you who can make us holy, for you alone are holy. O Jesus, acknowledge us before your Father; let us never be disowned.
O LORD, let our lips be cleansed that we might sing your praise and so be found worthy to join your choir of angels in Heaven. Send your angel to touch our lips with a coal from the fire of your altar; let your Holy Spirit descend upon us to sanctify our souls. How else shall we look upon you? How else shall we become as you are?
Your house is filled with your glory, LORD, with the smoke rising from your holy altar. Let our prayers be offered on that altar, our very lives be immolated with your Son that as incense they may rise before you. O let us proclaim your glory from the housetops and die with you in that same glory. Praise to you, our Creator and Redeemer, and our Sanctifier! Holy are you, O LORD!
Thu, 9 July 2020
(Hos.14:2-10; Ps.51:3-4,8-9,12-14,17; Mt.10:16-23)
“O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”
Hosea instructs the Israelites, “Take with you words, and return to the Lord,” and this David does in his psalm of sorrow. In “sincerity of heart” he begs the Lord’s forgiveness for his sin and finds that the Lord creates “a clean heart” for him. “In [Him] the orphan finds compassion,” and so the humbled king receives the Lord’s cleansing grace.
Because the Lord does “forgive all iniquity, and receive[s] what is good,” so we find that Hosea’s prophecy – “He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots” – is fulfilled in His Church today. We indeed “blossom like the vine”: the vine of Christ covers the earth. And though “straight are the paths of the Lord,” though Jesus’ blunt words to His disciples – “You will be hated by all on account of me” – are realized in all who are “brought to trial before rulers and kings, to give witness before them and the Gentiles”… though persecution, the cross, be an inevitable part of every Christian’s life, yet through it all the Church is strengthened, growing “like a verdant cypress tree.” For always it is the Lord who strengthens us; always it is “the Spirit of [our] Father… speaking in [us].” It is He who opens our lips; it is His praise we proclaim with all our words, and so what can He do but bless us? We “say no more, ‘our god,’ to the work of our hands,” and so no more do we sin. Taking refuge in the love of God, “because of [Him we] bear fruit.”
“Your Holy Spirit take not from me,” O Lord. “A willing spirit sustain in me,” that your wrath might ever be “turned away,” that I might forever be purified by your grace – that the pangs I suffer never be the result of my sin but rather the blessing of sharing your cross in this world. Come, O Son of Man, and find your sheep suffering all for you. Your Word keep upon our souls.
O LORD, cleanse our hearts of sin
that you might speak through us,
that we might do your work in this world.
YHWH, wash us clean of all our sins this day that our tongues might freely praise your NAME and declare your glory to all the world, that we might be ready even to die for you. You are our salvation; you are our very life. It is only by you we bear fruit – without you we would certainly die. And so, a clean heart create in us that we might be your faithful disciples.
Speak in us this day, O LORD; in our lives let your will be done. And as we blossom by your favor let us never forget that it is by your love alone we grow. If we perform good works, it is only by your grace, for truly we deserved death for our sins but your compassion has made us new again and prepared us for our service.
The work of our hands shall not save us, LORD, but only you and your love. Let us not be distracted by the gleam of the stones, even of the temple, but set our hearts and desires on you alone. Truly you hold our lives in your hands – let us have your wisdom to guide us, that we might never again turn away but ever recognize you as our Savior.
Wed, 8 July 2020
(Hos.11:1,3-4,8-9; Ps.80:2-4,15-16; Mt.10:7-15)
“I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you.”
And He comes to us as do the disciples today, blessing each home as He enters. And “if the home is deserving, [His] blessing will descend upon it. If it is not, [His] blessing will return” to Him. Be careful to receive the blessing of the Lord, for if you reject Him, He will leave you, shaking the dust from His feet, and “it will go easier for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than it will” for you.
In days past the Lord loved Israel as “a child,” drawing him “with human cords, with bands of love.” And though “they did not know that He was their healer,” though they rejected Him, His “pity [was] stirred” and He did “not give vent to [His] blazing anger.” He withheld His “flames” of wrath and offered them forgiveness. Thus Jesus is sent into our midst. For we, as Israel, have sinned. All have spurned the love of God and gone astray. But here comes the Holy One to heal us once again.
But now if we should reject Him, now if we should spurn His Son present to us, how shall we be saved? What more can the Lord God do to draw us home to His loving arms. The Lord has heard the psalmist’s plea to “look down from heaven and see,” to “take care of this vine, and protect what [His] right hand has planted.” He comes to His children wholly offering Himself for their sakes. Like the apostles, like His saints who come without money or goods but possessing everything they need and giving all this blessing freely to any who would receive it, so the Lord comes to us this day – and do we receive Him?
There is nothing more the Lord can do to save our souls: He has died for us. He has given all He has freely for our redemption. His Son walks amongst us. Enter His reign today. Accept His blessing. The day of judgment is not far from you.
O LORD, save us from the fires of hell;
obedient to your call,
let us come into your kingdom.
YHWH, let your peace be upon this House, upon your Church, upon all souls. Let none reject the grace you give as a gift to your children. Truly you love us and forgive us our sins – let us accept your healing this day.
You send forth apostles to spread your Word, to bring salvation, to bring your healing to all souls, LORD. You look upon us with pity and provide for our care, despite our failure to recognize your presence. Our sins you would remember no more, your love you would plant as a seed in the heart of our home, in our very spirits… Let us be your faithful children and cherish your reign over us!
How shall we be made worthy to be citizens of Heaven? How shall we find your blessing upon our town, upon our poor houses? Let us provide for those you send forth to serve, LORD; then we shall be welcoming you. And let us go forth ourselves as you call. Let us place our trust entirely in you and in your Word of truth, and so find all things provided for. In your House let us make our home.
Tue, 7 July 2020
(Hos.10:1-3,7-8,12; Ps.105:2-7; Mt.10:1-7)
“Jesus sent these men on mission as the Twelve.”
And in these men the Lord founds His Church, choosing “first Simon, now known as Peter,” as the Rock upon whom the Building rests, and in like fashion all the twelve apostles, upon whom He places His Spirit. And so the foundation is set. And so none can separate themselves from these and their teaching, for in them and in this Church, Jesus Himself resides. It is in their place the bishops stand; it is through these, priests are ordained. In His holy Catholic Church we find the New Jerusalem.
The Lord chose Abraham and his son Isaac, and placed His blessings upon the twelve tribes of Jacob and their descendants. He does not remove this blessing, does not break His covenant. And the Lord set up in Jerusalem His place of worship. This, too, does not change. Regardless of how corrupt the priests or kings may have been throughout the history of Israel and Judah, these remain His chosen people, and here is His temple. And when another would rise up to take the place of what God had anointed, as typified by Jeroboam’s setting up the golden calf in Samaria that the people might worship there and so not go up to Jerusalem, this pride the Lord curses. In our first reading He vows, “The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters. The high places of Aven [Iniquity] shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars.” Yes, “God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars” for “their heart is false.” It is not these upon whom His Spirit rests.
Brothers and sisters, “it is time to seek the Lord,” to come into the House His hands have made – not a separate Church set up apart from His covenants but standing in fulfillment of them with the coming of Jesus as the Christ and Messiah – and realize that “the reign of God is at hand.” Here in His New Jerusalem you shall find His presence; here you shall hear His teaching transmitted through the apostles and receive the Bread of His sacrifice at their holy hands. Know that “He, the Lord, is our God” and “throughout the earth His judgments prevail.” “Glory in His holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord,” for now He has come to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now through His apostles, through those who “seek to serve Him constantly,” He gathers all into the New Jerusalem – upon this House His favor remains.
O LORD, open our mouths
that we might speak of your glory,
you who are the living God.
YHWH, you send your apostles forth to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to gather them into the New Jerusalem, your Holy Catholic Church. Here are the pillars of your Church, here the foundation. In these Twelve you send out, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled – here are the twelve sons who will do your will.
All false gods you will destroy, LORD; all unholy altars shall be torn down. And every nation that turns from you and the call of your apostles will not enter into your reign but cry to the mountains and hills to fall upon themselves.
Save all faithful souls from such woe, O LORD. Let us see your hand at work in our midst, that we might praise your NAME. Cast all evil from our hearts, heal us of every disease, that we might be whole in your sight and so enter freely into your fold. Into your reign let us come, into the House founded on your apostles. In Spirit and truth let us worship you on your holy mountain.
Mon, 6 July 2020
(Hos.8:4-7,11-13; Ps.115:3-10; Mt.9:32-38)
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.
Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of men.”
In Israel, the people have turned from worship of the living God and “with their silver and gold they made idols for themselves, to their own destruction.” As the golden “calf of Samaria” is “destined for the flames,” so they “shall be like them, everyone who trusts in them.” So empty are the lives of those who worship wood and stone, and to inevitable destruction do they come. That which we make rots; only what is made by God endures.
How the Lord Jesus contrasts with the false and empty gods worshiped by the nations: where they are dead, He is alive. He alone is able to see and hear and smell and feel. He alone walks the earth with a heart that is “moved with pity.” He alone reveals the living God and enables us thereby to see and hear and smell and feel. He alone gives us strength to walk this earth and do His work. Their gods are mute – “they have mouths but they speak not.” But He takes the “mute who was possessed by a demon” and enables him to speak. It is He who gives us our souls, who renews our spirit.
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” the crowds exclaim as they witness the glory of God in their midst. It is as if they shout, “God is alive!” and come to faith in His presence. For here He breathes upon them; here His heart beats in their hearing. In Jesus all see the wonders of the Father in heaven come to earth and made real before their eyes. Such is God’s will – to bring heaven to earth. Such is His great grace – to send us His only Son. And what can we do but rejoice at the works of the Lord; what can we do but join Him in such labor?
“He shall remember their guilt and punish their sins,” those who harden their hearts against Him and trust in the wisdom of their own minds and the works of their own hands. For only the works wrought by His hands, through His living Spirit, are genuine, are true – are alive. All else dies. So let us leave off any empty sacrifice, any false worship not accomplished in the House of God. There is but one God and one Church through which He works, and only by what He has established will we know the grace and freedom of the living Lord of all. Only in Jesus’ Body and Blood do we find the life that yields lasting grain.
O LORD, open our mouths
that we might speak of your glory,
you who are the living God.
YHWH, open our mouths that we might sing your praise, and never again call upon false gods. Your Spirit alone dwell in us this day, and we shall again be your blessed children.
O LORD, how could we be so fooled as to worship wood and stone, or other more modern images made by our own hands? What we see on the TV screen is not real, yet we give it precedence over living souls. Our desire is set on such empty illusions, on such dead matter, and so we die of hunger far from you. And so we lie prostrate from exhaustion, from chasing the vain contrivances of our corrupted minds.
But you come to save us, LORD, from such empty worship of these no-gods, from these pursuits which sap our strength, which but blind our eyes and leave us without tongues for speaking the truth. You send laborers forth to relieve our dying spirits; you come into our midst each day to feed us with Jesus’ Body and Blood, that we might not fade away in our vanity but be revived by His sacred presence. Let us stand and walk with you who are life itself!
Sun, 5 July 2020
(Hos.2:16-18,21-22; Ps.145:2-9; Mt.9:18-26)
“When the crowd had been put out
He entered and took her by the hand,
and the little girl got up.”
How like Hosea’s prophecy today is the Lord’s raising of Jairus’ daughter in our gospel. For the Lord speaks through His prophet, saying, “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart,” and Jesus does this when He puts the crowd out of the house before whispering to the little girl to arise. And as the Lord declares in our first reading, “I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy,” so Jesus takes the hand of the child, wedding His Spirit unto her own; and so, as the redemption is promised Israel in her again calling the Lord, “My husband,” so Jairus’ daughter stands and walks in the light of Christ.
“She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,” it is said of the Lord’s chosen nation. With the faith of a child all shall be raised. And as the Savior covers the “woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve [full] years” with the edge of His cloak, taking her into His wedding chamber and so immediately healing her flow of blood, so Jesus would make us all His own; so in His grace and love He would enter all our souls and make us one with Him. And so would all find themselves “restored… to health,” His blood alone coursing through our veins.
“I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord,” our God declares. And knowing the Lord, being wed unto Him in the depths of our hearts where He speaks, promising us His love, what can we do but “praise [His] name forever and ever” with David His king? What can we do but “speak of the splendor of [His] glorious majesty and tell of [His] wonderful works”? For “great is the Lord and highly to be praised,” and His Spirit wed to our own we are overwhelmed by the glory of His presence and cannot help but declare our love for Him who has loved us above all.
Listen to His voice, brothers and sisters; let Him enter your hearts and make you His own. And you shall be raised from the death of sin unto His glorious majesty. Yes, may news of His grace circulate among all; let us “publish the fame of [His] abundant goodness and joyfully sing of [His] justice,” for He speaks now to our souls.
O LORD, speak to our hearts
that we might rise in faith with your Son,
and so praise your glory.
YHWH, you come to us in quiet places and whisper in our ear to rise and be with you. Our souls you wed to your Spirit that we might live forever in you. Let us remain faithful to your glorious presence in our midst; with courage let us come to you to be healed.
You are merciful, LORD, and desire our good. You would see us well and walking with you. And so you call to our hearts to worship you, to make your love our sole desire.
Cover us, O LORD, with your kindness; show your compassion to our souls. And we shall rise up and praise your NAME – one with you we will extol your glory forever. For what greater gift could we find than you yourself abiding in our heart?
Let us hear your voice calling us, LORD, in the quiet, in the silence of your presence. Cast all distractions from our minds. You alone let us know and desire, and we shall find ourselves at peace in your presence. Let all the world know your abundant goodness toward your children.
Fri, 3 July 2020
(Amos 9:11-15; Ps.85:9,11-14; Mt.9:14-17)
“I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel.”
Of the city of David, the Lord promises, “I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Beautiful imagery is given indeed through the prophet Amos to illustrate the renewal of the land now fallen: “The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it.” Indeed, in His great grace the Lord vows, “Never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them.” And so we have prophecy of the New Jerusalem.
Our psalm continues such prophecy of the kingdom to come, declaring, “He proclaims peace to His people, and to His faithful ones… The Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” Justice and truth shall be known in fullness, even as salvation walks “along the way of His steps.”
And these steps have been trodden in our midst. Jesus is coming and has come, bringing in Himself the new wine of the New Jerusalem, which courses like a river through all this City’s streets. Indeed His Blood flows in our veins now. Indeed we become the new wineskins that hold His abundant goodness, and so are lifted to the kingdom of heaven. John’s disciples do not yet understand. If the Lord’s own followers have difficulty seeing, it should not be surprising that those who have yet to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit yet find themselves preoccupied with the stipulations of a law that is passing away, a law – so embodied by the Pharisees – which is to be subsumed by the greater Law of love Jesus comes bleeding to bring into our midst.
But they shall. There can be little doubt that these followers of John and his baptism will come, with the Lord’s own disciples, and be washed in the blood that makes all things new. There is certainty that these, as even some Pharisees, shall “drink the wine” of the New Covenant, even as we do this day.
Brothers and sisters, this new wine is upon our altars even this day; before us is set the Blood that washes all clean. It is for our restoration the Lord provides this feast. Let us not refrain from partaking what He has died to bring into our midst, but let us be indeed the new wineskins filled with His Word and His Blood, and declare His salvation unto the nations.
O LORD, the wine of your Son’s blood renews us;
may we be open to receive the blessings
He pours upon us.
YHWH, you are our salvation; in your Son’s flesh let us take our refuge, of His blood let us partake. It is in Him we find our peace, in Him that our house, our own flesh, is rebuilt, redeemed for the kingdom to come, for the New Jerusalem. It is in His walking the earth that truth is known; in Him justice flows down from the heavens. In His skin let us make our home.
Your promise is great, O LORD, the promise of eternal life, the promise of bearing your NAME and so being as you are. In Jesus we see that promise before our eyes – send your Spirit to fulfill that promise in our poor lives.
O LORD, let us be rebuilt; raise us up from our ruins. It is at your hand we find our food – only by your grace do we live at all. And so, let us return to you and walk with your Son along the way of salvation. And so, let us be wed to you as your faithful ones. In you we place our hope; by you let us be made new.
Wed, 1 July 2020
(Amos 7:10-17; Ps.19:8-11; Mt.9:1-8)
“The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Amos says of himself in our first reading: “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.” And so he can say, “Now hear the word of the Lord!” And so he can speak for God. And so he can reveal the Lord’s will to the people, calling them to return to His presence.
Like the prophets is the law, of which David, another shepherd called by God – himself to be king – sings today in our psalm: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” As the prophets’ chastisement would bring healing to those who listen and obey the word of the Lord they impart, so the law of God is meant to bring a “fear of the Lord [which] is pure, enduring forever,” so it, too, would bring blessed healing to the wayward child, “rejoicing the heart” and “enlightening the eye.”
But the people did not listen to the prophets; they refused to obey the law of the Lord. His words they cast aside, unable to swallow them, unable to make them an enduring part of their lives. Like a cloud which passes, so ephemeral, so abstract and therefore unknown they would too often become. And so the Father sent His Son.
“Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says to the “paralyzed man lying on a mat”; and this word He has come to make real in all our hearing – to all He brings forgiveness for their straying hearts. Even the stiff necks of the scribes the Lord would bring healing. The sins of the past He comes to wash away, advocating to the Father for us that we knew not what we were doing before His arrival, and come now He has to make real for us God’s presence in our midst, to take away our ignorance of the Father’s love… to enable us to stand up and walk “toward [our] home.”
Indeed, “a feeling of awe” should come over us as it did over the crowd that witnessed Jesus’ power, for the same authority resides with us now in His Church – He has not left His people abandoned. And so, come to the Lord and confess your sins, for the Lord in His grace gave “such authority to men” to act in His stead as does Christ. And now find the courage and conviction to live your life led by the Incarnate Word of God. May your soul be in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
O LORD, your Word be in our hearts and upon our lips
that we might be saved from death.
YHWH, in ancient times you gave authority to ordinary men to speak in your NAME. Simple shepherds you called to prophesy against Israel and serve you as king. In the fullness of time you sent your Son with the power to forgive men’s sins, to heal us of all our ills. And now your authority rests in your Son’s apostles, those whom He sends forth to forgive and feed your flock. May all souls come to your Church to receive grace from on high!
Who will listen to your Word, O LORD, and turn away from his sin? Who will be refreshed by your Law and find the enlightening of his eye? Who treasures the sweetness of your chastisement, who knows the mercy bleeding in the heart of Jesus…? Who of this fallen race would stand and walk with Him toward our home in Heaven?
Give us courage, dear God, that you are with us and you care for all your sons. From our exile let us be taken, that we might be held in your Hand.
Tue, 30 June 2020
(Amos 5:14-15,21-24; Ps.50:7-13,16-17,23; Mt.8:28-34)
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you.”
The chastising continues in our readings today. Against the people’s vain sacrifices and “noisy songs,” both Amos and our psalmist speak in the Lord’s name. In need of healing as the two men “possessed by demons” do we find ourselves in the sight of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?” comes the warning from the Lord. And is it not a word we who pray must keep constantly in our hearts? For how easy it is to fall into empty worship; how readily do we begin to offer mere lip service to our God, when it is our very souls He demands. And not for His sake does He instruct us to “let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream” – to put into practice the words we speak. He commands us to “seek good and not evil,” for “then truly will the Lord, the God of hosts, be with [us] as [we] claim.”
Indeed we claim His presence in our lives; we presume His blessing upon us as we attend Mass and read His words, each day receiving His Body and Blood and hearing His instruction. But continually we must check ourselves, for blindly do we fall into separation from the Lord, even in His house, and so may hear from His mouth: “I hate, I spurn your feasts… I take no pleasure in your solemnities.”
At these times we must come “out of the tombs” as do the demoniacs today. We must cry out to the Lord as we realize our sin. And He will be faithful to us. As He healed even these, He will cast the devils from us, too, and quickly. But first we must realize that His “are the world and its fullness,” that He needs nothing from us. First we must see that all our sacrifices do Him no good – only us. Then He “will have pity,” when we have humbled ourselves. Then He will gather us into His fold, when our hearts are set on His justice.
Let the devil be cast from your mocking lips; accept the chastising Word of God, and new life at His feet you may find, possessed of the breath of His Spirit. Then will your offerings find favor in His eyes.
O LORD, come to us and stay with us
and let us stay with you,
sharing your goodness with all,
your healing graces upon all souls.
YHWH, you are God and need nothing from us; justice alone you seek of our lives. To be as you are is your desire for us, and so you rebuke us in our wickedness.
Cast the devils from our heart, O LORD; let us never dwell in vain pride, for then we should live as if in a tomb, separated far from you and your love. Then we should know your justice.
Help us to come rightly before you and beg your mercy, LORD, to bow before your majesty. If we but recognized your greatness, your glory in our midst, and desired your rule over our wayward hearts… quickly you would come to save us – with a word from your mouth we would be redeemed.
Our words are empty, dear LORD, and our worship vain, except when you bless us with your presence, except when you take pity on our sinful state. Let your discipline bring us back to you; let us find ourselves at your feet, clothed and in our right minds. By your hand let us be fed this day – we beg you to stay with us at all times!
Mon, 29 June 2020
(Amos 3:1-8,4:11-12; Ps.5:4-9; Mt.8:23-27)
“The lion roars – who will not be afraid!
The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!”
Yes, the Lord prophesies against Israel today like a lion rending and roaring: “You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.” He brings upon His chosen “such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: [they are] like a brand plucked from the fire.” In no uncertain terms does He cry out through Amos – “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
A frightening prospect indeed it is which is presented to us in our readings. Here is the Lord God coming to take vengeance on His people. This is He before whom “no evil man remains,” who “destroy[s] all who speak falsehood.” And against His own who turn from Him, He reserves greater punishment.
How shall we react, we who are now become His chosen children? What should we do before such an awesome prospect as the Lord’s hand coming with power? With David we should “bring [our] plea expectantly before [Him]”; with the disciples we should make “our way toward Him” and call out: “Lord, save us! We are lost!” And if we have the faith and humility of the Lord’s king, who declares, “I, because of your abundant kindness, will enter your house; I will worship at your holy temple in fear of you, O Lord,” then with his same confidence we may believe that the Lord will wake and take “the winds and the sea to task” – that what besets us because of our sin and separation from Him will be appeased by the same voice which threatens our destruction thereby. For indeed the Lord is abundantly kind and speaks to us as His own, and chastises us as His own. He raises His voice that we might return to Him; He places us in the fire that we might be purged. Let us find our strength in a holy fear.
And let us join His voice. Let us call out with Him to His blessed children, that all might return to Him who is their maker and protector – that all might be rescued from harm. The Lord would not see us caught in the snare laid for the wicked, and so He has sent His only Son to appease the wrath He has justly spoken forth. Let the lion’s mouth not close upon our heads, but may we be awakened by its voice and open our own mouths to declare the mercy of our God.
O LORD, the wind and the sea obey your Son,
but we harden our hearts against Him –
O let us heed His voice!
YHWH, even wind and sea obey you, and so we call upon your NAME to be saved from their clutches. Let not our sins overwhelm us, but bring us the grace of your salvation.
LORD, we deserve your just punishment, for we have stubbornly turned our hearts from you. Though you have been kind in watching over and protecting us from harm, we have not recognized your goodness toward us and praised your NAME; instead, we have turned to other gods and walked in the wickedness of our hearts. And so, what can you do but cry out against us; and so, what can we be but destroyed if we do not heed your voice?
Give us courage, LORD, for our strength fails us. All we can see is the turmoil our weakness brings upon us. Help us to see beyond the troubles the world presents, troubles we have brought upon ourselves, that we might see you and your power at work, and place all our faith therein. O let us listen to your prophets as they cry out and so walk your way in peace and light, despite the surrounding darkness.
Fri, 26 June 2020
(Lam.2:2,10-14,18-19; Ps.74:1-7,19-21; Mt.8:5-17)
“It was our infirmities He bore,
our sufferings He endured.”
And oh how deep are those sufferings; “great as the sea is [our] downfall.” And graphically are they seen in the destruction of Jerusalem; sharply they pierce the flesh of the Son.
Yes, the Lord “has torn down in His anger the fortresses of daughter Judah… On the ground in silence sit the old men of daughter Zion; they strew dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth. The maidens of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground.” And the children and infants “faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, and breathe their last in their mothers’ arms.” And so the prophet Jeremiah is “worn out from weeping”; and so his “gall is poured out on the ground because of the downfall of the daughter of [his] people.”
And is this weeping not Jesus’ own? Does He not shed tears over Jerusalem for the suffering it has known, and its suffering to come? Does He not indeed die for our sins? Listen to the description of the destruction of the holy city offered by our psalmist today: “With chisel and hammer they hack at all the paneling of the sanctuary.” Are these not the blows Jesus suffered; are they not the nails which pierced His hands and feet and side? “They set your sanctuary on fire; the place where your name abides they have razed and destroyed.” Is not Jesus the Temple of the living God, crucified by the hands of lust and greed and jealousy? Have we not done such violence to our Lord? And has He not endured all for our salvation?
Let the priest and all the children note the cause of such destruction of God’s chosen ones, the suffering of His only Son. Is it not the prophets who proclaimed “false and specious visions,” who “did not lay bare [the people’s] guilt, to avert [their] fate”? And note the Lord’s own words and attitude toward those who follow Him, to the children of Israel who press upon Him: “The natural heirs of the kingdom will be driven out into the dark. Wailing will be heard there and grinding of teeth.” Does Jesus fail to show those in His care the narrow gate? And so should we continue to coddle faithless hearts unto their destruction?
He indeed bears all our infirmities, all the sickness our sin has wrought. But we must indeed see ourselves as the centurion’s servant boy, “in bed paralyzed, suffering painfully,” to find His word of healing. We must come with the faith of the centurion to know His saving touch. For destruction indeed awaits the land, and so we must cry out to Him, “Turn your steps toward the utter ruins; toward all the damage the enemy has done in your sanctuary,” if we hope to be redeemed by His blood.
O LORD, only Jesus could heal our ills,
only He could bear our suffering, for our guilt is great –
only He could take it away.
YHWH, how dire is the condition of your city this day; your people waste away on its streets, and none is there to help them. Should we not call upon you; and would you not be faithful in carrying away our afflictions, in saving us from the destruction that surrounds us because of our sin? We lie paralyzed before you; lift us up from our bed of pain.
Does not death surround us this day, O LORD? Is there not little hope among your people – are not the walls of our city torn down? Yet your Son would bear all our suffering; our infirmities He would take away. Let us come to Him for healing. Let us cry out to you for grace, for you are faithful to all sincere prayers… Look upon us in our desolate state.
O LORD, the sanctuary has been torn down – your Son has been crucified in our midst. But we know this death He endures with us will bring us new life if we but pour out our hearts like water in your presence. O let us come to your banquet in the kingdom!
Thu, 25 June 2020
(2Kgs.25:1-12; Ps.137:1-6; Mt.8:1-4)
“Then Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard,
led into exile the last of the people remaining in the city.”
And so the exile is complete. Not a soul remains in the holy city. And their captors “burned the house of the Lord, the palace of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem.” Not a stone is left standing one upon another. Not even the government appointed by the king of Babylon could remain. And they even “tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem.”
Now she is utterly exposed. Now she who was his precious pearl is cast out and trampled underfoot. And so our psalmist can but lament, “By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion.” And so his songs of joy are silenced in this “foreign land.” But in his lament today do we not find a kind of hope? Does not his abiding love for the holy city of God bring expectation of a better day? Listen to his faith: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten! May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy.” Even as we hear of the utter destruction of the temple and the city of God, we are given a sense of the faith that will build it up again.
And on the day we hear of the completion of the exile of Judah and Jerusalem to Babylon, we hear of the healing of one who is completely ostracized by society. The leper comes begging for a cure, seeking to join his fellow men upon the land, and the Lord answers him: “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him and said, ‘I do will it. Be cured.’” Should this not give us hope in all our travails? Does this not signal not only the return of the exiles in seventy years, but our utter redemption and return to the Lord in the coming of the Person of Jesus? For upon heeding the Lord’s instruction to “show [himself] to the priest and offer the gift prescribed,” the leper will be welcomed into the Church and society – his exile will be ended.
We all stand exiled by sin. We are all utterly bereft of the blessing of the Lord. But there is hope. We are told that even in this exile to Babylon “some of the country’s poor” remained to till the land. And has not Jesus just come from the mountain where He has taught His disciples, “Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land”? If we humble ourselves before Him as has the leper, if we remain meek in His sight as have the poor of the land, the blessing of the Lord shall come to us and never leave. For He indeed wills it so. He indeed desires our return from exile. Do we have a heart to come to Him? Do we remember where we have been?
O LORD, it is your will that we be whole
and living in peace;
keep us poor in spirit
that we might not be removed from your sight.
YHWH, save us from our sin this day, even as you healed the leper; bring us back from our exile to dwell again in the holy City of Jerusalem. Are we not temples of your Spirit? Let us remember and return to them.
O LORD, come down from the mountain to walk amongst us, for we are in need of your presence. We live as though far from you in a land of darkness and exile. Is there yet hope for our beaten souls? May we yet be cured of our disease? Only if you are here with us, and we recognize you and call upon your love.
Why should your children remain apart from you? O LORD, why can we not sing of your glory? You are just and we deserve our punishment, but let us call upon your mercy this day. Then you will reach out to us; then you will speak your Word over us. Then your will shall indeed be known – that we be saved from the evil of this day.
Wed, 24 June 2020
(2Kgs.24:8-17; Ps.79:1-5,8,9; Mt.7:21-29)
“The rains fell, the torrents came,
the winds blew and lashed against his house.
It collapsed under all this and was completely ruined.”
Yes, “the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege,” and “Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother, his ministers, officers, and functionaries, surrendered to the king of Babylon, who… took him captive… None were left among the people of the land except the poor”; and these, too, shall soon be struck.
Yes, the nations “have defiled [the Lord’s] holy temple, they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.” And why has such destruction come? Our first reading tells us simply of Jehoiachin, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his forebears had done”; and now finally the day of reckoning has come. And now the nations “have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury them.” Now does the Lord’s “jealousy burn like fire.”
And what shall be left when that fire is passed? Who shall stand on that day of reckoning that shall come to all souls, to peoples of all nations? Will you stand before the Lord and recount the great deeds you have done before Him who holds all the world in His holy hand? Will you attempt to justify yourself before Him who justifies all? Will your heart truly be set upon such vain pursuit? Truly then the Lord will “declare to [you] solemnly, ‘Out of my sight, you evildoers’”; for all you have done will be as a grain of sand in His sight, and that grain will be blown from His hand for your lack of humility, for your pride before whom none can stand.
How shall it be then that your house be “solidly set on rock”? How will you avoid the fate of His chosen city Jerusalem? If it has been destroyed, do you not think that you, too, are liable to be struck from His sight? Or do you find yourself perfect? You must cry out as our psalmist, “Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” You must heed the words of Christ and consider yourselves unworthy servants (Lk.17:10), unfit as you are to stand before His eyes, to dwell in His light. Then He may have pity on your wretched soul. Then He might make you strong. Your tongue silent before His majesty, there will be hope that you shall remain.
Remember, brothers and sisters, this is He who “taught with authority” before whom you stand. Do not lose the awe of His presence. And perhaps the great collapse of your house will not be necessary; perhaps you shall find His great love which washes away all sin. Let the rains He sends but be cleansing. Endure them gracefully.
O LORD, the gold of the temple does not endure,
but only a humble soul set on your will.
YHWH, let us do your will, that we might stand humbly before you on the Day of judgment.
You cannot help but judge, dear LORD; you cannot help but condemn the pride and wickedness of an evil heart and a vain life. You would give us food to stand strong, your command that gives life indeed… but we would follow our own ways, and so, how can we end but removed from your sight?
You make us as temples, LORD, temples of your Holy Spirit feeding on the Body and Blood of your Son… but how faithful are we to the call to be as your Son, to listen to His words and the guidance of the Spirit – are we truly obedient to your will for our lives?
If we are not humble, LORD, then we know you not. If we expect return for works done in your NAME, then we understand not the great blessing of being your sons, and how unworthy we are to carry out your will.
O LORD, come back to us and help us because of the glory of your NAME. Let us make our home in you and in your Temple, and so find strength in you on the Day you return.
Mon, 22 June 2020
(2Kgs.19:9-11,14-21,31-36; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mt.7:6,12-14)
“I will shield and save this city for my own sake,
and for the sake of my servant David.”
Brothers and sisters, “renowned is He as a stronghold,” the Lord our God. And faithfully does He watch over His chosen one.
Our psalmist proclaims, “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” He extols the glory of Mount Zion, of Jerusalem, “the city of the great King,” for the blessings of God upon it. Here is His temple and so here it is we “ponder [His] kindness”; here it is we take refuge, finding “the narrow gate” that leads to Him and to His salvation.
In our first reading today the Lord gives evidence of the way in which He protects His children; He reveals that He will not “give what is holy to dogs or toss [His] pearls before swine.” The king of Assyria has indeed “laid waste the nations and their lands,” including the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He has acted with seemingly invincible power, and now he has come to the Lord’s chosen city to destroy it as well. And though this Jerusalem, where His temple does dwell, and the chosen tribes of Judah (through whom His Savior shall come) shall not be protected forever… though this earthly tent shall so soon be ransacked and taken into exile itself, today the Lord shows how His promise, His covenant with them, will never be taken away. Though the temple’s walls be one day destroyed, His spiritual kingdom, His New Jerusalem is eternally blessed in heaven.
Hezekiah indeed “enter[s] through the narrow gate” of prayer. Taking the threatening letter from Sennacherib in his hand, “he [goes] up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before Him, he pray[s] in the Lord’s presence.” He calls out, “O Lord, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” And the Lord listens. He takes pity on His “virgin daughter Zion… for out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors.” And by the hand of the Lord the king of Assyria is turned back.
Brothers and sisters, “Jerusalem will not be handed over” to the king of this world. Upon His Church His blessed protection remains. Through Judah and David, the king whose city is Jerusalem, Jesus has come – the Lord’s promise is fulfilled and the remnant now does thrive. Here is the Temple not made by human hands; here is the narrow gate through whom all must enter paradise… here is “the joy of all the earth,” God’s “holy mountain” in our midst; and on His heights and in these walls, we are shielded and saved forever.
O LORD, if we enter through the narrow gate,
we shall come into your presence,
and you shall always fight for us.
YHWH, how shall we find our way to your holy City, on which your protection rests, which shall always be saved from the violence of this world? No kingdom can conquer your Church; in her let us make our home.
On your holy mountain, the fairest of heights, let us find our place, O LORD. To your Temple let us come, stretching out our arms in prayer. And you shall listen to our pleas, and your help will be with us quickly – you will be our stronghold. And so, we will praise you forever, for you teach us the way that leads to your House; in your heavenly kingdom we shall ever remain.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy, as all your children are holy. Let us be as those who walk the narrow path to you, who find joy in the difficulties present there. Dwelling in faith we shall not fear the threats of the mighty, for you who are above all are our shield and guide.
Sun, 21 June 2020
(2Kgs.17:5-8,13-15,18; Ps.60:3-5,7,12-13; Mt.7:1-5)
“In His great anger against Israel,
the Lord put them away out of His sight.”
Jesus instructs His disciples today, “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.” In other words, “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” Here is the prerequisite not only for avoiding judgment and condemnation at the hand of God, but also for assisting and healing others, as is our call. If we wish to serve as Christians and remove the speck of sin from others’ eyes that they might see in the clear light of the Lord Jesus Christ, first it is certainly necessary that we ourselves see so clearly, that we come to the Lord and have our great sin removed from our souls. Otherwise our desire to help others in their frailty will indeed but turn to judgment of them; first we must recognize the great sinners we ourselves are – and so, that we cannot judge another – before we can find the grace from God to bring Jesus’ mercy to others. God alone judges, brothers and sisters, for God alone is good, God alone is pure… the Lord Jesus alone is free from every speck of sin.
And God will judge. Believe this. He will send His apostles and prophets forth to bring remission of sins – He has sent His Son to die on the cross that we might be cleansed in His blood – but failing the acceptance and embracing of the call of the Lord, indeed what hope have we of salvation? There is but His righteous judgment remaining for our souls; there is but His chastising Hand to be placed upon us.
That God does judge, that He does cast sinful man from His sight, is made evident in exemplary fashion in the fate of our ancestors, the Israelites. “Because the Israelites sinned against the Lord, their God,” He cast them into exile at the hand of their enemies. “The Lord warned Israel… by every prophet and seer, ‘Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes’”; He sought to turn them from their sins by those whom He had touched, but “they did not listen… They rejected His statutes, the covenant which He had made with their fathers, and the warnings, which He had given them.” And so, His pure eye unable to look upon them anymore, He removed them from before Himself.
“O God, you have rejected us and broken down our defenses,” David cries, and begs the Lord’s return to the Israelites’ ranks… And how often this must be our prayer because of our foolishness in the sight of the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have a greater covenant now with the Lord than did the ancient Israelites, for we have a greater than David or Moses or Abraham with us now. And more demanding is He of our purity, of our virtue before Him. For what threatens us now is not mere exile, but the fires of hell; what awaits those who turn from Him now is eternal damnation, and so let us remain faithful to our God. Indeed let us remove the log from our eye that we “will see clearly to take the speck from [our] brother’s eye” and so effect the building up of the kingdom of God. The time is now upon us; let us do all we can to remain in His sight.
O LORD, remove us not from your sight
but remove the plank from our eye.
YHWH, judgment is yours alone and it is eminently fair. Where we would condemn out of hand, you are merciful, and cast us from your sight only when we persist in our sin. Help us to see as you see, and to be as you are, that we might remain before you and help others to return to your presence.
We are outcasts, LORD, for our sins against you, for our failure to heed your blessed commands. You would save us from such fate as would separate us from you, and so you tell us of the path to tread. But we do not listen. And so we invite your wrath upon our souls; and so, how can we help others?
Save us this day, O LORD, from ourselves and from all our enemies. Let us listen to your voice and so enter into your love and the light of your presence. In your land let us dwell, in the land of Heaven, and there let us stay… and to this place let us draw others who seek you in the forgiveness of their transgressions and the following of your way. We have sinned against you, but gather us back into your arms, we pray.
Fri, 19 June 2020
(2Chr.24:17-25; Ps.89:4-5,29-34; Mt.6:24-34)
“Because you have abandoned the Lord,
He has abandoned you.”
How quickly Joash the king of Judah, who so recently had restored true worship in the temple at Jerusalem, “transgress[es] the Lord’s commands.” After Jehoiada the priest died, the people “forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols.” And so, “wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem.” So great is their apostasy that not only would they “not listen to [the prophets’] warnings” when they were sent “to convert them to the Lord,” but when Zechariah the son of Jehoiada stood up in their midst to call them back to the Lord, “they stoned him to death in the Lord’s temple.” And so the central place of worship becomes a place of murder.
How truly Jesus speaks in today’s gospel: “No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other.” How clearly we see the hatred of God at work in Judah as she embraces false and empty gods. And so Judah becomes like her profligate sister in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. She who is set aside to preserve the temple and the holy city of Jerusalem, who is given yet a share in the inheritance promised David, turns boldly from her call and blessing to despise that which is most her own. And now does her hatred grow. And though she may escape the chastising hand of God a longer time than her sister, God’s promise: “If [David’s] sons forsake my law and walk not according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and keep not my commands, I will punish their crime with a rod and their guilt with stripes,” will not be set aside forever, and they shall follow their sister into exile.
Brothers and sisters, we must choose the master we shall serve: if the world and its spirit, then you court God’s condemnation; if the Lord, then remain faithful with your whole heart and follow His Son unto heaven. It is to heaven He desires your soul to come, but you must trust in Him and remain faithful to His call. For if you leave Him, He cannot but leave you; but if you hold fast to His love, He can do nothing but bless you.
Today Jesus, the Son of the Father in heaven, stands up to warn you against the traps of this world and call you into full, living worship of the One God. Will you enter into His love?
O LORD, in your House alone let us make our home,
and so find your kingship over us,
and so find your blessing forever.
YHWH, how kind your words to us are; how reassuring you would be. But do we listen to you; indeed, can we hear you at all? O heavenly Father, you know all that we need, and so would provide for us all things if we but followed in your way – but who among us has any faith?
O LORD, do we not rather fret over the passing things of this earth? Do our hearts not turn quickly to false gods, abandoning you and true worship to feed our bellies, to save the flesh? And what can we be but destroyed like the grass of the field if we have no more sense, no more faith, no more love for you than a lifeless statue? Woe to us as we turn from you, for you are our very life, and without your Spirit quickly we die… quickly we die.
Let us seek holiness, LORD, let this be our goal, our call, our only desire. Let us hope for you alone and for your heavenly kingdom, and we shall be blessed, and we shall remain in your House forever.
Wed, 17 June 2020
(Sir.48:1-14; Ps.97:1-7,12; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our psalm sings of the greatness of our God; in our first reading we hear of how this greatness was revealed in the prophets Elijah and Elisha; and in the Lord’s Prayer we call for this greatness to be present in our midst.
“Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes round about,” our psalmist declares in praise of God. “His lightnings illumine the world.” How great indeed is He: “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Nothing stands before His glance, for “justice and judgment are the foundation of His throne,” and this world is held in His all-powerful Hand.
And how well this greatness is brought to bear by His holy prophets. We are told, “Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.” The consuming power of the Lord is indeed revealed in him, for “by God’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire.” He “brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the Lord… sent kings down to destruction,” and finally was “taken aloft in a whirlwind, in a chariot with fiery horses.” How the Lord blesses His holy ones! How He reveals His greatness in them! And of Elisha it is said, “Nothing was beyond his power… In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds.”
There is no end to the power the Lord provides to His children, for there is no end to His power, and this power He would share with all. Thus does the Lord encourage us to call upon the majesty of God our Father to be with us, to feed us each day, that His Name might indeed be praised, that His holiness might be revealed in His chosen ones. And to avoid His wrath, and to share in His power, what must we do? What is the central call of this all-powerful, all-holy Lord? Forgiveness. His grace is power, and grace and mercy we must share with all to share that power which has no end.
Trust in Him who holds you in His Hand, brothers and sisters. And His mighty Hand you shall see at work in the course of your day, and the fire of His grace shall pour upon your soul.
O LORD, let your power be upon us,
the power of your merciful love.
YHWH, you are all-good and all-powerful, and those who share your goodness share in your power. Let your kingdom come upon us; there let us dwell with you. We pray to be forgiven all our sins that your Spirit might be with us.
But we know, O LORD, for your Son has taught us, that if we are to come into your presence and share in your power and wonder, first we must forgive our neighbor – even our enemy we must love. Those who sin against us indeed become as our enemies, but your mercy we must share with them if we are to know your grace at work in our souls. Separated from you, all die, but in your light all are brought to life: let all souls come into your kingdom.
Let thy holy will be done, O LORD, in all your prophets, in all your disciples. Your power, your love, make known in all who bear your NAME. What should we fear if you are with us? Let your Word be spoken through us and His blood course through our veins. Let all peoples see your glory.
Tue, 16 June 2020
(2Kgs.2:1,6-14; Ps.31:20-21,24-25; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
Jesus instructs us in our gospel, “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private.” This prescription the holy prophet Elijah fulfills in our first reading when he miraculously crosses the Jordan River and enters the wilderness, out of the sight of the prophets who remain standing on its other side. Elisha, too, he would have remain apart, but this holy man determines to stay with his father in faith. And so as their prayer becomes secret, as their conversation of God becomes hidden and private, even then Elijah is taken in flames of holy fire from the sight of men; even then he ascends to heaven. And though so otherworldly, the eyes of Elisha witness the hand of God lifting the prophet from our midst.
Brothers and sisters, can you see that this is as what happens with us when we pray to God in our private rooms? David in his psalm declares, “How great is the goodness, O Lord, which you have in store for those who fear you, and which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of men.” When we “hide… in the shelter of [His] presence… screen[ed]… within [His] abode,” He reveals Himself to us in His glorious might, He lifts us up to heaven where He dwells. As He blesses those who keep their alms secret and repays those whose fasting is hidden, so He anoints the prayers of His children who find Him in the recesses of their hearts. From this wilderness, from this desert place, He lifts us to see the encompassing shining of holy light.
The quiet place is within your soul; the kingdom of heaven is within you. Converse with the Lord quite readily, quite faithfully, in this hidden place, and all shall be revealed to your eyes. Stay with Him; do not leave His side, and all your requests shall be filled in His blessed generosity. And His cloak He shall place upon you, His cross He shall lay across your shoulders, and the great blessings of heaven will be your own.
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!
The Lord keeps those who are constant.”
And all humble souls He raises
to the throne of God.
O LORD, let us hide ourselves in you,
that you might carry us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us enter into your presence hidden within us; into this wilderness let us come that we might meet with you and you might bless us, and take us to Heaven. Hear our prayer this day.
LORD, you alone are our refuge, you alone are our glory and our peace – you are our only desire. Let us not seek the approval of this world or the praise it may give, but look always only to serve you, to love you, with all our might… and let all our might be only of you. Let it be you who work miracles in our life.
Take all we have, LORD; we ask nothing in return but to be with you. Quietly let us come to you who dwell in the purest silence, apart from all the vain distractions of this world.
You are quite above this dreadful place, though you come to dwell with us even here. In you let us transcend all the emptiness that surrounds us, even as we walk with you. O LORD, let us never leave your side that we might come to be where you are.
Mon, 15 June 2020
(1Kgs.21:17-29; Ps.51:3-6,11,16; Mt.5:43-48)
“Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.”
We have hope, brothers and sisters; we have hope that the very depths of our sin and depravity against the Lord shall be forgiven, and we shall be made new, washed in His blood. For the Lord “sends His rain on the just and the unjust,” and this He proves today in our readings.
The Lord forgives David his “blood-guilt,” he who has committed the dual sins of adultery and murder; and Ahab, too, of whom it is said, “No one gave himself to the doing of evil in the sight of the Lord as did Ahab,” finds a measure of His mercy. Indeed, if there is reconciliation of these sinners with the Lord God, then even we must have hope of the Lord’s grace at work within us.
The Lord is He who loves even His enemies, whose “sun rises on the bad and the good” alike, whose arm is not shortened, whose love knows no bounds – for has He not gone so far as to die on the cross as a common criminal, as the worst of sinners, to redeem all from their sins? But to receive such grace and mercy how must we come to Him?
It is clear both in our first reading and in David’s great psalm that forgiveness is not obtained in a casual manner. To find it, we must imitate our sinners in their repentance as we have mirrored them in our sin. For Ahab when he heard the condemnation of the Lord upon his house “tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh”; he did not hesitate to “acknowledge [his] offense” before the Lord and all the people. And recognizing that his “sin is before [him] always,” David comes begging the Lord, “Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt,” seeking the compassion he knows only God holds. And this trust in His mercy the Lord sees; this declaration of sin the Lord hears. It is because Ahab “humbled himself before [Him]” and because David proclaimed openly his guilt that God has mercy on their lives. And we must join them just so in our own repentance to find that same mercy and kindness.
More than this, brothers and sisters. To more than this are we called now, my friends. For like the Lord Himself we are commanded to be – to show such mercy as He. The blood of Christ now outpoured, and it having poured upon our souls, we must now see that it is shared with all. We do that by shedding our own blood, by sharing that same love with everyone, indeed even with our enemies, as with us the Lord has done. And so our freedom from sin is made complete in His heavenly presence.
O LORD, is it not only fair
that we should love our enemies
since you have loved us
who have done such evil in your sight,
even having your Son die for our sins?
YHWH, free us all from bloodguilt, for we are all guilty of shedding your Son’s blood; we are all sinners in your sight. Yet you love us, and offer forth your forgiveness as we repent before you – though we have been your enemies, you make us your friends. Help us to receive such grace from you, and to share it with others.
Your mercy pour upon us, LORD; each day let us come to you and find your cleansing rain. For continually our hearts turn from you… sinners we remain, and your healing grace ever we need to come into your presence and find your all-encompassing love. Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy!
And let us answer your call to show your love and mercy in our lives. The light you impart to us let us shine upon all souls. O what a great grace you offer us, LORD! to be as you are, to love as you do – to be perfect even as you. Let us find such grace at work in us; let it be all we desire.
Sun, 14 June 2020
(1Kgs.21:1-16; Ps.5:2-3,5-7; Mt.5:38-42)
“I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”
How divergent are the paths of Jezebel and Jesus. This Queen of Israel, wife of Ahab, holds the philosophy that if someone won’t give you what you ask for, take it by force; whereas the Lord says if someone wishes to take something from you, give it and more.
Here are the way of the world and the way of heaven in stark contrast. When as a petulant child Ahab refuses to eat after not getting what he wants, his wife plots the death of Naboth to obtain the king’s desired land. She truly is among “the bloodthirsty and the deceitful the Lord abhors.” Jesus and those who follow Him are they whom the Lord loves. Far from stoning the righteous man to death, they themselves are the righteous who shed blood freely at the hands of their enemies. Both the wicked Jezebel and the just Jesus go beyond the old law: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.” She takes an eye and a tooth when none has been taken from her, going thus below the law; but Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to injury,” going thus above the law. Where He fulfills the law in love, she makes a mockery of God.
We hear these mutually exclusive paths spoken of even literally today. Jesus instructs His disciples: “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him two miles,” encouraging His followers on the same way of suffering He models for all – a way revealed most clearly in His carrying of the cross to the hill of Golgotha; and our first reading tells us that “on hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it,” walking quite a different path of blood.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious that God “delight[s] not in wickedness; no evil man remains with [Him].” He indeed “destroy[s] all who speak falsehood” – the justice of God they shall not escape. But let it be equally obvious that we must follow the Lord’s words in turning the other cheek. His are not mere platitudes but necessary instructions for finding the way to God He Himself walks. If we do not walk where He has walked, how can we come to the place He now is? Do not think you will come to heaven along an easy path, much less a wicked one. You will obtain the vineyard of heaven only by drinking the blood of Christ where you are, only by laying down your very life here in this world.
O LORD, let us leave behind
all the wickedness of this world
and join in your Son’s holy sacrifice of love.
YHWH, let us leave the way of the wicked far behind and walk only in the path you mark out for us. In your Son’s blood let us make our home, that there shall be no blood upon our hands.
Let us lay down our lives with your Son, turning the other cheek to those who would harm us, to those who would slap us in the face. Yours is the way of forgiveness and love, of sacrifice in the name of goodness, in your NAME, O God.
Keep us from the path of the world, LORD, for it is one of evil, of use and abuse of neighbor, of the shedding of his blood, the blood of the righteous Man. O let us not have Jesus’ blood on our hands!
LORD, we are all sinners, but if we turn to you, you save us from such sin as would condemn our souls. But if we harden our hearts against your love, if we seek only our own gain, and at others’ expense, choosing to remain blind to your Son’s Cross of sacrifice, which is our only hope of salvation… we can only be destroyed. Help us to give all to others, to answer your call to love.
Fri, 12 June 2020
(1Kgs.19:19-21; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-10; Mt.5:33-37)
“I will follow you.”
Elisha gives His yes to Elijah, and so to God. He “kiss[es] [his] father and mother good-bye” and weds himself to the prophet who has thrown “his cloak over him.” And he shall not turn back, shall not fall short of giving his entire self to the service of God, and so shall be greatly blessed. All he leaves behind. His very livelihood he slaughters, and gives these twelve oxen “to his people to eat.” For he shall not return to work for them anymore.
“You are my inheritance, O Lord,” David sings; “my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.” All his soul trusts in the Lord in whom he “take[s] refuge,” and what more does the Lord’s king need? “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence”: all his being finds peace in the presence of God, for all his being is set upon Him.
So it is, brothers and sisters, that to the extent we give ourselves to God, to the degree that we give our yes to the Lord, even so will we find our place secure. For making our home in heaven with Him, there is nothing to keep us from His grace. All else falls short of His glory. Heaven and earth shall pass away, and the hairs on our heads are numbered: only the New Jerusalem is lasting; only heaven is secure, for only in heaven is God.
We must be with Him. We must give ourselves to Him. Why should anything less hold sway in our lives? Why should we hesitate to follow Him with our whole heart? For there is nothing else that has importance – heaven is all that matters, and giving our lives to this place which is all life, how protected we are from “the evil one” who would dilute our love of God. And how certain our yes to our God is a no to this adversarial devil.
Honor your mother and father, children; give to all the love that is due. But give to God your very soul; let your spirit rest in Him alone, and you will be blessed forevermore.
O LORD, let us follow you unreservedly
and know your presence at our side.
YHWH, let us give you our ‘yes’ even as your Blessed Mother, even as Elisha, even as all your faithful disciples. Let us give all things over to you and follow your way unreservedly. In your truth let us ever remain, not wavering or turning back to what we have left behind. In you let us make our home and we will dwell in Heaven.
What do we need but you at our side? For what should we be concerned but serving your will? For as we take refuge in you, as we set our hearts on your work and your will, nothing can disturb us – in complete confidence our soul abides. For you are all, O LORD; you are all and everything, and nothing exists apart from you. And so, if we have you, everything is ours. Let us but give our trust to you.
And we shall never die if we trust our lives into your hands. You shall be our food and drink, and we shall sit at your table forever… O LORD, we give you our ‘yes’ this day.
Thu, 11 June 2020
(1Kgs.19:9,11-16; Ps.27:7-9,13-14; Mt.5:27-32)
“Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me,” David sings in our psalm; and it is the presence of the Lord that is made known to Elijah in our first reading. And that same presence stands most openly before us in the teaching of Jesus in our gospel.
Elijah comes to the mountain of God to find shelter against the persecutions of his own people, for as he says, “I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” He alone holds the word of God, and so with what zealousness his life is sought. God promises to show Himself to His lone prophet, but neither in the “strong and heavy wind” nor in “the earthquake” nor in “the fire,” which come before Elijah with great power as he stands upon the mountain, does the prophet find God. By none of these is he moved. But in “a tiny whispering sound” the presence of the Most High God is made known (“it is not by sword or spear…” 1Sm.17:47); it is this still, small voice that instills the fear of the Lord in his pierced soul and causes him to “hid[e] his face in his cloak and [go and stand] at the entrance of the cave,” now seeking shelter from the power of God.
And is not this quiet Word made known in fullness today in the presence of Jesus, He who came “humble and mounted on an ass” (Mt. 21:5)? Does His simple teaching, do His gentle words not rend our hearts in twain? Here is the power of strong wind, earthquake, and fire all together in the voice of the Son of a carpenter; here in this unassuming flesh is God Himself made known.
And what does He teach us? And how difficult is it to hear! How we must cower at His words as they reach into our heart! For He tells us that our glance must seek God alone, that our heart must speak, our actions must reveal, His love only. Else what can we do with our eye but to “gouge it out and throw it away”? What can we do with our hand but “cut it off and throw it away” if it will not do the will of the Lord? For all else is waste, and to pursue in blindness the mere pleasures of the flesh, to look upon the vanity of the world with longing, will but bring us to Gehenna – this the gentle Lord would prevent with all His might, with even His death upon a cross.
Do not turn your look upon the sins of this degenerate age. Do not throw in your lot with those “who have forsaken [the Lord’s] covenant, torn down [His] altars, and put the prophets to the sword.” “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord,” and you “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” – and you shall be wed in truth to Him who is all love, and you shall be called to anoint kings and prophets, to do the will of the Father in fullness as His holy children.
O LORD, let us be pure of heart,
that we might see you, that we might know you,
that we might be in your presence and do your will.
YHWH, how can we bear your Word reaching down into our souls; how can we stand in your presence? Though you come to us in gentleness and humility, your loving word is severe to hearts full of sin as our own. And so we hide our faces from your radiant presence.
Let us not be afraid, O LORD, to heed your Word and do your will; change our hearts that they might be pure as your own. Let us not look with lust upon the tempting objects of this world or reach our hand out to them or run to find them… In peace and in calm let us remain in your presence, your Word ministering to our poor souls. Let us desire only to be like you, dear God, and to dwell in your presence.
O LORD, you will take us to your kingdom after this earthly life is spent, if we spend it in your service. Keep us close to you all our days, protect us from the attacks of the devil, and we indeed shall come to see the glory of your transcendent kingdom. O let us be subject to you and your gentle, saving Word this day!
Wed, 10 June 2020
(1Kgs.18:41-46; Ps.65:2,10-13; Mt.5:20-26)
“You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.”
“There is the sound of a heavy rain.” The Lord is speaking. The Lord is teaching. Jesus is revealing the strait path of holiness that leads to the Father, and His words and His Person come like a fruitful rain upon a drought-stricken land.
O Lord, “thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.” By your speaking, by your teaching… by your bleeding on the cross for us “you have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest.” But will we receive these rains? Will we accept His chastisements which lead to life, which are the only way to the kingdom of God?
Here are the Lord’s words, the commands of His mouth: “Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; any man who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna.” To what extent has He increased the prescriptions of the law! For He calls us to a holiness that surpasses the holiness of the law. He calls us to the kingdom of God, and great rains are needed to foster its life. And so He demands that we “be reconciled with [our] brother”; and so He warns us to “settle with [our] opponent.” For we are on our way to His holy court, and not even the smallest sin will stand there.
The eyes of Elijah see but “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” It is but the shadows the prophets knew as “the sky grew dark with clouds and wind.” But it was enough to recognize the coming presence of the Lord that would relieve the drought upon the land, upon the nation of Israel. We, brothers and sisters, are those upon whom “a heavy rain fell,” for now Christ has come; now He calls to us in Person from the cross and from His throne in heaven. If you wish to come to where He is, you must go where He has been: the cross is the heavy rain which brings the sweet smelling flower of heaven.
“God’s watercourses are filled” and “rejoicing clothes the hills.” Listen to His words now. Be obedient to His command. It is the driving rain which breaks up the ground and prepares the soul for holiness.
O LORD, send your rain upon us to soften our hearts;
let us be perfect as you
by your chastising Word of love.
YHWH, release us from judgment, we pray. Send upon us your driving rain, to cleanse our souls of all harsh words and anger. How shall we stand before your throne if here we cannot forgive, for how shall we ourselves be forgiven our grave sins if our hearts are hardened? O send your rain, LORD! Send your rain, and let our hearts be open to receive it well.
Your Word is as a chastising rain to our souls, O LORD; it is the strong words from your mouth that serve to cleanse us from our sin and soften the ground of our hearts to receive your grace and blessings. If we have not your mercy within us, we are dead, for then there is no remedy for our sin. Speak to us; instruct us in your ways, and let us be obedient to your command, to your chastisement that brings new life from this poor land.
O LORD, subject us not to the trial; lead us not before your tribunal. For we have nothing to pay our debt and so cannot stand before you. Only your mercy will save us on that day. Let us have your mercy within us now, and share it with others.
Tue, 9 June 2020
(1Kgs.18:20-39; Ps.16:1-2,4-5,8,11; Mt.5:17-19)
“If the Lord is God, follow Him;
if Baal, follow him.”
Today “the only surviving prophet of the Lord” comes to reveal to the people that “the Lord is God!” Elijah seeks to open the Israelites’ eyes to the presence of God, to bring them “back to their senses.” And how evident it becomes that “they multiply their sorrows who court other gods,” and that those “who set the Lord ever before” themselves are able to declare with David in faith: “With Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
The great futility, the absolute emptiness of following false gods is shown in clear focus in the four hundred and fifty “prophets” who “hopped around the altar” and “called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, ‘Answer us, Baal!’” How well our first reading summarizes the response of gods who are no gods: “But there was no sound, and no one answering.” After “Elijah taunted them: ‘Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened,’” they compounded their worship to utter absurdity as they “called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.”
From this exercise of futile worship Elijah calls the people, saying simply, “Come here to me.” And they move from this macabre circus scene over to the altar of the Lord the prophet prepares. And here the power of the Lord is unveiled beyond doubt to open the wayward hearts of God’s chosen ones. Water upon water is poured upon the evening sacrifice, but the Lord’s fire comes at the word of Elijah and consumes all.
“Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel.” Let it be understood that your law must be followed and not the wicked contrivances of the human heart. Let be known the truth of your Son’s words: “Whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God. Whoever fulfills and teaches these commands shall be great in the kingdom of God.” For we shall only know the “fullness of joys in your presence” if we keep to your way, following Him who has come “to fulfill” “the law and the prophets.” Let us never “court other gods” but with your humble king call out ever, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, all your Law is holy for you alone are holy
and lead us only into your presence –
praise you, O LORD our God!
YHWH, you alone are God indeed; you alone should we worship – your NAME alone should we call upon to answer all our needs. And your Law we should keep with all our hearts if we hope to gain a hearing from you.
We are so blind, O LORD, blind to your presence, blind to your power, blind to your love for us and the care you provide in your Word. We seek to make our own way, to worship a god of our own making, and so we fall away from you who hold our very lives in your hands. Send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to awaken us to your glory and your love here in our midst this day, that we might turn to true worship, worship of you who alone are worthy of our praise.
O LORD, let your Word be fulfilled in us; let us keep your commands perfectly, following in the way of your only Son, who is the fulfillment of your Word. Yes, you alone are God and He alone is the way to you – let us live in your truth.
Mon, 8 June 2020
(1Kgs.17:7-16; Ps.4:2-5,7-8; Mt.5:13-16)
“The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”
Again today we see in our readings that the Lord provides for His children’s needs, that indeed He is with us until the end of the age – yes, “the Lord does wonders for His faithful one.”
As “the brook where Elijah was hiding ran dry,” the Lord instructed him to go to Zarephath of Sidon, a pagan territory, saying, “I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” Elijah is obedient and the Lord is faithful to His word, for just “as he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there.” (Indeed, how wonderful it is to see the word of the Lord fulfilled!) Elijah does not hide the Lord’s prophecy from his benefactress, and she, too, believes the word the Lord has spoken. And so she and her son and the prophet were “able to eat for a year” from a jar that was all but empty.
Brothers and sisters, our psalmist David sings in joy to the Lord today, “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” And how certain it is that He gives light to those who seek Him, those who have faith in Him. For “when [we] call… [He] relieve[s] [us]… in distress… [and] put[s] gladness into [our] heart[s], more than when grain and wine abound.” For the light of the Lord is greater than the bread we eat; it is His love alone which provides all and alone brings joy to our souls.
And we are called to share in that light, to be “the light of the world.” It is into us He places His light and then invites us to “set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house”: “Your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.” As He is Light, we must be light; as He provides for the needs of all, we must provide for the needs of all. And we must believe that, as “the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah,” just so the light He gives our lives shall not dim and the salt which draws it forth shall not lose its savor – we must believe that He indeed will provide for us, even to His second coming. And it shall be so. His love shall ever grow and this Bread be shared more and more with those He calls out of the world. Though famine be upon the land, He feeds us with the finest wheat, and calls us to feed others.
O LORD, let your light shine upon us and through us –
let us have faith in you
and see your work accomplished in our lives.
YHWH, let the light of your countenance shine upon us, and let that same light shine through us to illumine the world, to give light to all who see us. You alone provide for us; you alone feed us; and you alone make our lives of worth – let it be you we bring to others.
If our salt be not of you, O LORD, what good will it be and what good can it do? Apart from you and the light of your love, we are useless, fit for the trash. But if we keep our eyes fixed on you and your holy light, if we call to you in our distress and have faith in the care you take for the souls of those who love you, then we shall be made whole in your sight and ready to serve your will.
What water can we find upon this earth, LORD, for it is dry and lifeless. Our spirits sag and the darkness threatens to overcome us. Let us not be of the darkness; let us not give in to its threats. Let us remember you and in you place our trust, and there shall be food and water in abundance, and we will see your hand at work even in our own lives. Praise you for your goodness!
Sun, 7 June 2020
(1Kgs.17:1-6; Ps.121:1-8; Mt.5:1-12)
“My help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
It is He whom we seek when we “lift up [our] eyes toward the mountains.” And what do we find but that “the Lord is [our] guardian; the Lord is [our] shade; He is beside [us] at [our] right hand.”
Does the Lord not watch over those who trust in Him? Take Elijah for your example. He is led into exile under the stars, separated far from his people, yet he finds “the sun shall not harm [him] by day, nor the moon by night.” He finds, in fact, his needs are met in a most marvelous way, for “ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the stream.” At the Lord’s command even these birds of the air serve to provide the needs of those who take refuge in Him. And His refreshing waters are always at our side.
Brothers and sisters, what do we see when we lift our eyes to the mountain? Do we not see the Lord sitting, teaching us His way? Are our hearts not nourished by His Word and our souls refreshed by His Bread? He speaks to us only truth, assuring us that “blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs.” He tells us what we indeed find as we live our lives under His wings. If our refuge were the world, how could sorrow and lowliness bring us blessing? Would our hunger and thirst not then be for the riches of this world, and we find ourselves fatted thereby for the day of slaughter? But being “single-hearted” and with a “hunger and thirst for holiness,” we find ourselves more than satisfied; we find that we “shall see God.” What more need has the devout soul than to dwell in the light of the Lord?
“The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever”; He shall not “suffer your foot to slip,” for “He neither slumbers nor sleeps” but is ever diligent in the protection He provides His holy ones. And so what should you do but “be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.” As long as you remain with Him, He shall watch over you; and to His blessings there is no end, for all is held in His sacred hands and His desire is always to shower His mercy upon your soul.
O LORD, as we give ourselves over to your Word
and His way of the Cross,
you bless us and bring us into your kingdom.
YHWH, you watch over all our ways; you guard and guide and bless our days. Ever at our side you wait, to feed us with all we need. How blessed indeed we are to have you as our God. There is none who provides as you do.
And so, let us continue on your way, LORD; lead us each day to the place we should be. In your will all is accomplished well – let us be ever at your side.
Though we mourn and though we weep, though we hunger and thirst for your love… though we suffer in this world for holiness’ sake, you answer all our desires, O LORD our God.
And so, let us be as your prophets of old, trusting only in your hand, needing nothing but your presence with us and the promised reward of Heaven. For nothing can harm us if you are there, and with you we already taste the kingdom.
Fri, 5 June 2020
(2Tm.4:1-8; Ps.71:8-9,14-17,22; Mk.12:38-44)
“Put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist,
fulfill your ministry.”
In final words to his blessed disciple, Paul exhorts Timothy with all the strength he is able to muster “to preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient – correcting, reproving, appealing – constantly teaching and never losing patience.” He even invokes “the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead,” to emphasize the seriousness of his charge. Clearly the end approaches for Paul. He himself states: “The time of my dissolution is near” – and so it is with great urgency he desires his preaching task to go forth, for Timothy’s own sake, that he might share the “merited crown” that awaits his father in the faith, and for all who look “for [the Lord’s] appearing with eager longing.”
Paul sees as he draws nigh to the Day of the Lord what has perhaps never been known so clearly as today, that “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears.” He prophecies so well what is true of every age but is magnified so greatly in the dark time in which we live: “They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables.” More have died in war in the last century than in all the rest of human history; and the martyrs’ blood has never mounted as high to heaven as in this atheistic age wherein all hearts turn away from true doctrine to enshrine the workings of their own hands and minds. (May the smoke of Satan be blown from the confines of the Church and the devil’s veil of illusion be lifted from all minds!)
But we must not be as the scribes “who like to parade around in their robes and accept marks of respect in public, front seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.” The prideful adulation that sparks the unholy fire of the cults so prevalent in our glamorous time is not what must call to our hearts or be the leaven for our souls. We must but praise the Lord! With our psalmist we must sing to our Lord and our God, “the Holy One of Israel”: “My mouth shall be filled with your praise, with your glory day by day.” We must “give [Him] thanks with music on the lyre,” with our body’s every fiber.
Brothers and sisters, we must “always hope and praise [God] ever more and more.” Ever we are called to draw closer to the Lord. We have not yet been as the widow who “gave from her want, all that she had to live on”; we have not yet been “poured out like a libation” as has Paul; we have not yet shed blood with Jesus on the cross. We cannot yet say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”; for there is much race yet to be run and to the end our faith must endure and grow ever stronger day to day. Indeed our ministry must be fulfilled, all our strength spent in witness to the Word of Truth.
O LORD, send us true teachers of the faith,
that we might be so faithful ourselves,
pouring out our lives for your sake.
YHWH, to you let us turn in faith; instruct us ever in your way. Let your truth alone be taught by all who stand in your place. Laying down their lives for your flock, may they find their blessing on your Day.
And let us all lay down our lives with them; O LORD, let all men sing your praise. For none is released from your call to preach, to live the faith all our days.
Soon your Son shall return; let our eyes be up and looking for His coming. Let us desire to unite with you and so give all we have toward that end. We may not have much to give, LORD, but if we place all at your service, you will multiply our good works and make us worthy to stand with you.
O LORD, keep us from those who lead souls astray by their words and by their actions. To Jesus indeed let us look, and to His faithful disciples, to find the way we should walk. If we are diligent in following you, if we are humble and speak the truth, you will bless us and all we do, and join our song to that of your saints. May Jesus teach us this day.
Thu, 4 June 2020
(2Tm.3:10-17; Ps.119:157,160-161,165-166,168; Mk.12:35-37)
“Princes persecute me without cause
but my heart stands in awe of your word.”
The Word of God and persecution are our topics for today. On the one hand, Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching,” and Jesus uses a passage of Scripture (Psalm 110) to refute His persecutors and verify that the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh, is indeed greater than David – being David’s Son insofar as the flesh is concerned, but truly begotten of God the Father and one with Him from all eternity. And on the other hand, Paul states categorically, “Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted,” and our psalmist sings, “My persecutors and my foes are many.” But these two hands become one hand, working in the one Body of Christ, revealed in the passage Jesus quotes: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” For by the power of the Word of God in Scripture and made flesh in Christ we His children conquer with Him all our enemies… these persecutors become as so much empty wind.
Brothers and sisters, never lose awe for the Word of God spoken in Holy Scripture. Be like Timothy who “from [his] infancy” knew “the sacred Scriptures, the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation.” Treasure this gift at our hands, “inspired by the Holy Spirit” as it is for our instruction. And I pray your teachers will always be as Paul, so faithful to the Lord in knowing His Word and living it with “resolution, fidelity, patience, love, and endurance, through persecutions and sufferings.” Then your path will be straight on the way to God; then will your hearts and minds be filled with light. There are many “evil men and charlatans” about who, “deceived themselves” and “deceiving others,” fail to drink of the undrainable waters of Scripture, and who avoid the Lord’s cross at all costs… listen not to these.
“I turn not away from your decrees,” our psalmist declares, and so he finds “great peace” despite any trial. Brothers and sisters, for us who love the Lord and are like the crowd in today’s gospel who “heard [His words] with great delight,” “there is no stumbling block.” All our persecutions but add to our ever increasing knowledge of our Savior, drawing us ever closer to the kingdom of God, where Jesus reigns forever.
O LORD, as we contemplate your Word, we find you –
you who are Truth, you who are God…
and so have great peace.
YHWH, let us stand in awe of you and your Word; Jesus Himself is the Word imparting wisdom to us that by faith in you we might be saved. Lead us unto life everlasting by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
And as we heed your Word, O LORD, and walk in His way, give us the endurance that comes from you; for indeed we shall be persecuted if to Him we remain true. As Jesus was led to the Cross and all His apostles as well, so will all those obedient to your Word in Sacred Scripture, all those who find life in your commands. But in you we shall ever have peace, for with you we shall ever be.
O majestic LORD, far above us all, let us not be deceived by false teachers who would lead souls into sin but be ever guided by those you appoint to stand in Jesus’ place and guide the Church unto glory. May your apostles remain firm in your way that all may come soon to your eternal kingdom.
Wed, 3 June 2020
(2Tm.2:8-15; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14; Mk.12:28-34)
“Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior.”
Brothers and sisters, “Remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, was raised from the dead.” He is our Lord. He is our God. He is our Savior who speaks only truth. Listen to Him and walk in His way, “following a straight course in preaching the truth.”
After Jesus proclaims the greatest of all commandments today, finally, “no one ha[s] the courage to ask Him any more questions.” Finally the traps cease to be set to catch Jesus in His speech and the leaders of the people “stop disputing about mere words.” For who can argue with the Son of God when He makes known the clear path to God, when He exposes the heart of the law and the prophets in absolute terms? Only silence can follow such Truth. No vain utterance can stand in the face of such Love.
For the command is love, and Jesus is love – and this Paul has come to preach, “even to the point of being thrown into chains.” His only concern is for “those whom God has chosen, in order that they may obtain the salvation to be found in Christ Jesus.” For this he preaches the Gospel unto death, that all might hear and know of the love of God… and should we not join him? Should the Church not be a speaker of the truth in love, “a workman who has no cause to be ashamed”? Should she cower to declare Christ Jesus risen from the dead and fear offending those on the path to destruction? Should she stand by idly as false gospels are preached and docile lambs are led to the teeth of wolves in sheep’s clothing? Does she not care for the flock as does Paul, as does Paul exhort Timothy? Should it not be she who “guides the humble to justice” and “teaches the humble His way”?
Brothers and sisters, “there is no chaining the word of God!” and there is no place for falsehood to stand in its light. God is love and we must love others. We do not love by nodding as others fall into error – this is not our call in the Lord. We must teach the truth with Jesus our Lord with “heart,” “mind,” “soul,” and “strength,” His Spirit of love and truth upon us. Then will all lies fall silent. Then will light shine. Then will His love be known and all come to the “eternal glory” He holds.
O LORD, teach us your way of love
that humbly we might walk in it
and teach it with strength to others.
YHWH, Jesus is the true teacher of the faith, for He is risen from the dead – He is your Son, O God! Who can dispute with His wisdom? Who can question His knowledge, who compare with His holiness? None there is beside Him, yet send us true teachers to speak in His Name.
We are prone to go astray, dear LORD, to wander from your love, which is life itself to us. We do indeed tend to forget why we’re here and fall easily into sin. O send forth your preachers to remind us of your love, to remind us of the sacrifice your Son has made for us, and that He is risen from the dead. For if we forget not that He is raised for our sakes, will not your love remain in our hearts; will we not conquer sin and death and live with you in love of one another? Then let your Word come to us and make His home in us, that humbly we might worship you all the days of our life.
O LORD, let us be faithful to your Word at work within us and live in your love. May all our being bless your NAME!
Tue, 2 June 2020
(2Tm.1:1-3,6-12; Ps.123:1-2; Mk.12:18-27)
“He has robbed death of its power
and has brought life and immortality into clear light
through the Gospel.”
It is this Gospel which Paul exhorts his “dear child” Timothy to serve, to preach and to teach “with the strength which comes from God, bear[ing] [his] share of the hardship which the Gospel entails.” Paul has suffered for the sake of the Gospel – and suffers “present hardships” till the end – and he would see his favored disciple carry on in his way. And so he encourages him: “The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit but rather one that makes us strong, loving, and wise.” For of the life Christ brings the world must know, and who shall preach it if we don’t? And so, through his letter Paul calls us all to be as he is, “an apostle of Christ Jesus sent to proclaim the promise of life in Him.”
Does Jesus not bear well His hardships today in our gospel? Does He not stand strong and speak of life everlasting even before those who “hold there is no resurrection”? The Sadducees question Him: “At the resurrection, when they all come back to life, whose wife will she be” – she who has married so many? Again a trap is laid, and again it is shown so futile, for what word can stand before the word of God. And that Word answers simply and directly: “When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven.” These Sadducees “fail to understand Scripture or the power of God,” and so they are terribly blind in their mistaken thinking, which sees nothing beyond the present time. (Yet the present, too, they do not understand, for they do not recognize Him who stands before them.)
Brothers and sisters, we are called to live like the angels of heaven, and not only to live such, but to preach this life as our Savior has done, as Paul has done, as Timothy. We must keep “our eyes on the Lord, our God,” “confident that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to [us] until that Day” when we join Him who is “enthroned in heaven.” And so let us “stir into flame the gift of God”; let us speak His Word of life without fear for the hardships the Gospel entails. The Light that lasts forever has come into our midst, and before Him death has no dominion.
O LORD, through all the trials of this world,
bring us to the light of Heaven.
YHWH, God of the living, let our eyes be ever upon you, let us ever remember you whom we serve… and let us ever serve you with strength and dedication, knowing it is through you we are brought to new birth and made immortal as you. O let us live with you now and forever!
Why should we be afraid, LORD, of any challenge to our faith? Why should we turn away from our call to worship in your NAME? Why should we hesitate to proclaim your glory and the grace you bring us by your Son’s death and resurrection? His sacrifice means life to us, and to turn from His Cross would spell our death. May we serve Him and His Gospel in confidence all our days and so come to the place He prepares for us in Heaven.
All your angels and saints live forever in your holy presence, their eyes ever upon you and their voices ever praising your NAME. May we share with them in your holy life even as we toil for you on this plane.
Mon, 1 June 2020
(2Pt.3:12-15,17-18; Ps.90:2-4,10,14,16; Mk.12:13-17)
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
but give to God what is God’s.”
“Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent after Jesus to catch Him in His speech.” These “two groups” seem to come one from God and the other from Caesar. But their devious plotting shows the only party present of God is Jesus Himself.
And to whom do we belong? Peter makes it abundantly clear in his letter today where our allegiance should lie. He exhorts us to “look for the coming of the day of God and try to hasten it!” We must not set our hearts on things below but on things above, where God dwells; for “the heavens will be destroyed in flames and the elements will melt away in a blaze.” It is “new heavens and a new earth” we must await, where “the justice of God will reside.”
What is of Caesar will return to the earth, just as God “turn[s] man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men.’” (For where is Caesar today? And where is the coin that was in their hands?) But the Lord is “from everlasting to everlasting”; “a thousand years in [His] sight are as yesterday… or as a watch of the night.” For He exists “before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth.” These indeed He created; and these are destroyed by His hand.
Brothers and sisters, as our years “pass quickly and we drift away,” let us listen to Jesus, who indeed “teach[es] God’s way of life sincerely.” Let us listen to His servant Peter, who tells us, “Be on your guard lest you be led astray by the error of the wicked.” The wicked surround us here on this earth, but even here our hearts must be set on God and we must “be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in His sight.” Here we must pray that the Lord will “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness,” that when He comes we shall know His glory… but also that even in these decaying earthen vessels we shall find His grace and see His work accomplished. “Glory be to Him now and to the day of eternity!” May He make us His own.
O LORD, let your eternal kingdom dawn upon us,
even as the kingdom of this world passes away.
YHWH, make us your own; let us come into your kingdom. On this barren earth let us not make our home, in princes and kings let us never trust – to you alone may we give our allegiance, waiting ever for your Day.
O LORD, our lives are but passing on this plane, but you are everlasting. Though we wither and die, though all we see shall be consumed by fire, with you we shall live, and rejoice eternally. And so, let us not set our hearts on the riches and glory this world holds in its grasping hands; let us give all over to you with praise.
The Day draws near, O LORD, we know, when your Son will return and bring with Him new heavens and a new earth. O let us hasten this Day by our prayers, let us prepare for it by our actions… let us never fear His coming because of our attachment to sin but give up all the darkness, the evil surrounding us and inviting us in, and wait in purity with our eyes to the heavens for our salvation to be fulfilled.
Come, Lord Jesus, and draw us into the Father’s kingdom.
Sun, 31 May 2020
(2Pt.1:2-7; Ps.91:1-2,14-16; Mk.12:1-12)
“I will deliver him and glorify him;
with length of life I will gratify him
and will show him my salvation.”
So the Lord speaks of us through prophecy of His only Son. So the Lord seeks to accomplish in everyone who “acknowledges [His] name.” So indeed He has sent “the Son whom He loved” for our salvation. So He prays with Peter, the Rock of His Church, “May grace be yours and peace in abundance through your knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.” For “by His own glory and power… He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these [we] who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature.”
Brothers and sisters, “that divine power of His has freely bestowed on us everything necessary for a life of genuine piety through knowledge of Him.” He has come into this world, He has entered the vineyard despite the threat of death, and has indeed been “beat[en],” “treated shamefully,” and “killed,” all that He might found His Church among us; and His grace is for us “marvelous to behold.” Should we not then “make every effort” to employ the gifts He provides by the Holy Spirit and the Church He has made? Should gift not build upon gift so that in this house of ours we grow from the foundation of faith unto the divine love of all?
Let us not be like those tenant farmers who acted out of jealousy, who could only say of the Son: “Here is the one who will inherit everything. Come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance will be ours.” For the Lord has indeed “come and destroy[ed]” these faithless servants “and turn[ed] His vineyard over to others.” We are those others. And we “inherit everything” with the Son if we “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Yes, brothers and sisters, it is we who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Let us be most conscientious in our work in His name; let us be ever ready to provide Him “His share of produce from the vineyard.” For the vineyard is all His, and we are all His, and He is with all of us and with all we do and are – and He will deliver us and glorify us in the eternal life to which He has come to lead us. In His Son is our salvation.
O LORD, on your Son we find our blessed foundation; in Him let us grow to perfection,
to union with you.
YHWH, your Son who was rejected by man, who was despised and put to shame and to a painful death, be the foundation of our lives – let our hearts be set upon Him alone that we might become sharers of His divine nature, as is your will.
Let us build our house on faith in you, O LORD, and grow in every virtue by increasing knowledge of your power and participation in your great love, till we come to rest with you in your eternal kingdom. That kingdom you build upon this earth this day, both in the hearts of all believers and in the Church you ordain to bear your NAME, to produce fruit by your grace. Let us remain ever in this House, in this vineyard you plant, that our houses may be like your own.
O LORD, take our souls unto yourself as we give all things over to you who are the source and deserving recipient of all good things… O let us dwell in your holy House in your surpassing peace all the days of our poor lives, and so become holy as you.
Fri, 29 May 2020
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 28 May 2020
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 27 May 2020
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 26 May 2020
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 25 May 2020
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 24 May 2020
(Acts 19:1-8; Ps.68:2-7,33; Jn.16:29-33)
“You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world.”
“An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone.” Yet the Father is always with Jesus, even as He faces His imminent execution, and Jesus is with us by the power of the Spirit through all the trials we face.
“In me you may find peace,” the Lord assures us, bearing out the words of David’s psalm: “The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; He leads forth prisoners to prosperity.” Such the Father does for the Son, who is brought from being utterly forsaken and alone upon the cross to the absolute fruitfulness and glory of heaven; and so the Son does for His sons, as from His place in the kingdom He delivers us the same grace of salvation and prosperity in His name.
In the Lord Jesus, Paul finds his peace and his inspiration, fearlessly defending the Gospel in all synagogues “with persuasive arguments”; and this same fire of the Holy Spirit he imparts to the disciples by Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by laying his hands on them. In these, as in us all to this day, God’s grace and power go forth: “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and utter prophecies.” More than just repentance for sins, this Baptism in the Spirit prepares all to do the work of the Lord despite any difficulties in the world. It convinces us of the divinity of Christ and causes us to declare in truth to our Lord, “There is no need for anyone to ask you questions. We do indeed believe you came from God.” And it enables us to prove such complete faith and trust in the One the Father has sent.
When the Baptism of the Lord comes upon us, God’s “enemies are scattered”; all doubt and fear are driven from us “as smoke is driven away… as wax melts before the fire.” And though we need be refined in the crucible that is our earthly life, yet at every moment God is near to preserve the grace and peace He has planted in our souls, to see that our faith does grow.
Lord, be with us always. Send your Spirit forth.
Let the ends of the earth be convinced of your loving presence
and the salvation it brings to all hearts.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Name of Jesus
and receive the Holy Spirit
that even in this world we shall live in your peace.
YHWH, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, our enemies are scattered, driven away like smoke, and we conquer the world. His fire burns up every evil and we can but rejoice in your presence, singing praise to your Name. O let that holy fire be upon us even this day!
In the world there are indeed many troubles, many temptations which would cause us to be scattered, separated from you. But Jesus has indeed overcome the world, O LORD; by His death He has put to death all the wiles of the devil, and so in Him we may take great strength. Through belief in Him the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Dearest LORD, let us not be scattered but indeed by your Word upon us scatter all those who hate you. Help us fearlessly defend your kingdom that all poor souls might make their home with you.
Fri, 22 May 2020
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Thu, 21 May 2020
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom He loves.” “There are many of [His] people in this city,” here where we dwell on earth, and we must speak to them of the Lord’s glory, His love strengthening us for every task. It is He who accomplishes all in us, and so He will guide and guard our way.
O LORD, give us reassurance of your presence with us,
now and until the end of time.
YHWH, soon our hearts shall rejoice at the return of your Son and our union with you in Heaven forever. But now your Spirit is with us reassuring us of the fulfillment of this promise and guiding and protecting us along the way. We can accomplish all the tasks you set before us because of the glory that is among us even this day in our Advocate from on high.
O LORD, though there is cause for us to weep and mourn in these days we remain apart from complete unity with you, we are strengthened as we wait by the knowledge that Jesus is yet present with us in the Spirit He sends. Let us take refuge in this gift and, as we wait now again for its outpouring in a few days, let us remember your faithfulness to us and our destiny to praise you forever in your eternal kingdom. O you who sit upon the throne, shine your light upon us this day.
Tue, 19 May 2020
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 18 May 2020
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 17 May 2020
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Fri, 15 May 2020
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 14 May 2020
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Tue, 12 May 2020
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.
Mon, 11 May 2020
(Acts 14:19-28; Ps.145:10-13,21; Jn.14:27-31)
“We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”
“With this instruction” Paul and Barnabas “gave their disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith.” Their apostolic journey has been a witness that the road to the Lord is wrought with difficulties, but that it bears great fruit. These apostles are pursued from towns in which they have preached by those who would destroy them and their word. Paul is stoned, seemingly unto death. But their trials do not dissuade these apostles from retracing their steps through the very towns from which they have been ejected and installing elders, priests, in each one, “commend[ing] them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” And so they arrived again at the place “where they had first been commended to the favor of God for the task they had now completed.” Now they are able to relate in joy “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles,” perhaps the greatest feat of the growing Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Of course, Jesus’ words to His disciples are the same as Paul’s: “‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you,” Jesus says, and adds, “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” For the peace Jesus gives is deeper and abides eternally; it remains through any trial of the world for it is not dependent on the consolations that come from earthly things. And so He can assure them, “Do not be distressed or fearful.” He can freely invite them into the peace He possesses and to which He returns, as He retraces His steps back to the Father from whom He has come, whence He had first been commended to the favor of God for His mission. He knows they will suffer, even as He is about to suffer death at the hands of “the Prince of this world.” But He knows the devil’s power “has no hold” on Him, and would have us know Satan has no power over us either. For we are with Jesus; we are with the Father in heaven. And though we be as Paul in his persecutions, though we be stoned and “dragged… out of town” and left for dead, the Lord’s angels will surround us as Paul’s disciples surrounded him – as they come to Jesus in the tomb – and like Paul, and like our Lord, “before long” we shall get up and return to our call; and ultimately we shall rise from the dead to eternal life with Jesus, coming to the home He now prepares.
“I go away for a while and I come back to you,” Jesus assures His disciples, and asks them to be joyful that He returns to the greatness of the Father, whose “dominion endures through all generations.” And so, brothers and sisters, may our “mouth[s] speak the praise of the Lord” all our days; “may all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” Let us do as He commands and “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom and speak of [His] might,” and that power will enable us to endure all things, and we shall be brought at last into His reign.
O Lord, though it mean we must die,
let us be obedient to your command,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let us discourse of the glory of your kingdom; let us carry your Word to the ends of the earth. Let us not fear the trials that must come to all who enter your reign but hold the peace Jesus offers ever in our hearts. Let us, too, come to you in Heaven.
Though we be stoned and left for dead, we shall rise up again, for you, O LORD, are with your disciples, surrounding them with your grace and protection. As Paul returned even to the towns from which he had been cast out, so let us be ready to enter every battle this world presents, knowing the power you give us is greater than any of this earth, for it overcomes even the Prince of darkness.
Let us give you thanks, O LORD, in all the works we do and so make known to all men your glory.
Sun, 10 May 2020
(Acts 14:5-18; Ps.115:1-4,15-16; Jn.14:21-26)
“May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
“Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” Thus are we blessed, by keeping the word of the Lord. Thus we know His love, for thus we accept the love He offers by His instruction and by His presence.
It is this blessing of “the living God, ‘the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them’” that Paul and Barnabas would bring to the hearts of the Gentiles to whom they preach. It is in the name of Jesus, Paul brings healing to the lame man who “used to sit crippled, never having walked in his life.” Indeed, the same healing he would bring to all the pagans before him who also have been crippled all their lives by the folly of worshiping “idols [that] are silver and gold, the handiwork of men” and the products of human imagination. Never have they walked in the true light of the Lord. In fact, their limitations are most evident in their desire to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul themselves, as Zeus and Hermes; “even the priest of the temple of Zeus… wished to offer sacrifice to them,” and Barnabas and Paul must shout at them “frantically”: “We are bringing you the Good News that will convert you from just such follies as these”!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory” is our psalmist’s refrain today, and the same is exclaimed by Barnabas and Paul: “We are only men, human like you.” Worship the living God! is their exhortation. And Jesus Himself speaks in the same humility and with the same deference to the Father: “The word you hear is not mine, it comes from the Father who sent me.” All comes from the Father and must return to Him; and so we are all encouraged to make our home with Him alone.
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.” He wills to love all, to bless all, to make His home with all. To find our homes with Him, to know the blessed love the living God has for all His creatures, we must listen to the instruction of His Son, to the Holy Spirit the Father now sends in His name, and to the ones who are sent to preach the truth of the living God. May the light of His face shine upon you.
O LORD, let us keep your commands
and so live in your surpassing love.
YHWH, you come to all who love your Son and keep the Word He imparts to us. It is this Word that brings us love, and all who cherish love, cherish it, and so find your presence. May you be revealed to all souls in your only Son.
Help all wayward people to turn from vain worship to know you, O living and true God. May all your creatures give you due praise, turning resolutely from the work of their hands. Glory abides with you alone; may we find that glory by obedience to your call to love.
Let us dwell with you, O LORD; come, we pray, to dwell in us. Help us indeed to keep your commands, which are but life for our souls. Your Spirit be with us this day to lead us to all truth in your Son’s Name, that we might do your will in strength, proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men. O let us rise from the dust to live in your Heaven!
Fri, 8 May 2020
(Acts 13:44-52; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.14:7-14)
“I have made you a light to the nations,
a means of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In the preaching of Paul today is fulfilled the words of our psalm, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” Rejected by the Jews to whom he comes, he “now turn[s] to the Gentiles,” and – fulfilling the words of our psalm which read, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise” – our first reading tells us “the Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and responded to the word of the Lord with praise.” Thus does the light of the Lord’s salvation go out to the ends of the earth.
And our gospel makes clear just how salvation comes to all. First Jesus declares with wonderful clarity the oneness of the Son and the Father. When asked by Philip, “Show us the Father,” Jesus responds, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?” Notice that Philip’s request refers to the Father but Jesus’ response refers to the Son, as if to ask of one is to ask of the other. The Lord then states the truth of His oneness with the living God in plain terms: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” There is no separation here, and all that Jesus does is done by the Father, so the living Lord of the universe is at work in absolute fashion through the Son’s words and works. In Him the Father’s will of love, His desire to save His children from sin and death, is accomplished.
But more than this is made evident of the working of salvation, for the Word must reach to the ends of the earth. How is this accomplished? The Lord again declares with absolute clarity the oneness now of Himself and His disciples. In order “to glorify the Father in the Son,” He makes them the solemn promise, “The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.” And the oneness of Jesus and His disciples is made more poignant in His definitive statement: “Anything you ask me in my name I will do.” Who does these works of the Lord? Who brings His salvation forth? We do the works, do we not? We are those still on this earth with flesh and bone and voices. Yet He says “I will do” them to show how He works through us in all we do, to reveal our oneness with Him and the Father.
Our first reading tells us, “Almost the entire city gathered to hear the word of God” when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch in Pisidia. In this simple line is shown both that the salvation of the Lord is going forth to all, and that it is occurring through His disciples. For it is indeed “the word of God” that Paul the apostle speaks and not his own, and this Word is irresistible in its truth and love to all hearts open to hear the voice of Him who speaks, for this Word brings only joy.
O LORD, looking upon your Son we see you;
when others look at us may they see Jesus.
YHWH, you live in your Son, accomplishing your works, and He in His turn works through us. What grace and blessing you grant all your disciples, that we might share in your very life and work! Alleluia!
And this grace and blessing extends to all throughout the earth; all may know the salvation wrought in men by the only Son. And so, what can we do but sing to you in joy, for your light is with us even in the persecution your Word brings.
O let us be one with you, dear God, even as Jesus is one with you. To your side let us, too, come; this is your will now that you have revealed yourself to us in your Son. May we say in truth, He is in us and so we in you. No separation let us know from your surpassing glory.
I pray, O LORD, even the words on this page be spoken not of myself but by you, that your work be accomplished in this poor servant.
Thu, 7 May 2020
(Acts 13:26-33; Ps.2:6-11; Jn.14:1-6)
“You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.”
This same verse appearing in both our first reading and our psalm is spoken also by Jesus in our gospel when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” for such is the Son begotten of the Father.
How comforting are Jesus’ words in our gospel, and how enlightening Paul’s speech. The disciples’ hearts are troubled at the Lord’s speaking of His imminent departure; that He must die begins to sink in to them. But the only Son tells them, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” and, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you.” Not only this, He also promises, “I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” The words come like a river of peace, like a wind of love breathing upon them, and upon us. And the same message is spoken by Paul to “the children of the family of Abraham and [all] others who reverence our God.” His is “this message of salvation,” that though the rulers condemned Him to death and “laid Him in a tomb,” “yet God raised [Jesus] from the dead.” And now His witnesses, those to whom He appeared thereafter, declare the Good News of His resurrection, and our own. “The words of the prophets which we read sabbath after sabbath” and “what God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, in raising up Jesus.” This is the word Paul brings to the waiting ears of his Jewish brothers, and which should be heard by us all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” brothers and sisters. The Lord is near and is calling us to His home. Even as we speak He is preparing a place for us. The death that you experience day to day is passing away, and all that will be known is the truth, the life of God the Father. The Lord declares, “I myself have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain,” and Jesus is that King for all ages and all peoples. With His truth He shatters kings, and so death itself, “like an earthen dish”; He takes “the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for [His] possession.” He has died, but He is risen, and now all must “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him.” There is no breaking in to the place He prepares for us to dwell.
The devil has been defeated by the Son begotten of the Father; his house has come crumbling down. We need but follow the way Jesus is to find our home in the New Jerusalem. Death no longer holds dominion, for the Son is now come.
O LORD, you have begotten Jesus
and raised Him from the grave we have made
that we might be saved,
that we might dwell with you forever – Alleluia!
YHWH, may we come to you through Jesus your Son; may we follow in His way, for His way is truth and leads to life, and leads to you. O may we be resurrected from the dead with Him that we might come to new life with you who are Life itself.
Let us not be troubled, LORD, by the death Jesus had to die, and the death we too must know. What is this world and the things of this world in comparison with you? What can this world do to us if we have Jesus as our guide? For He shatters the powers of evil like an earthen dish and raises all the faithful from the tomb. Let us come to the dwelling He prepares for us in your heavenly kingdom.
Though He has died, He has been raised, and we shall be raised with Him, all according to your will, Father God. And on Zion we shall find our home with your eternal King.
Wed, 6 May 2020
(Acts 13:13-35; Ps.89:2-3,21-22,25,27; Jn.13:16-20)
“He who accepts anyone I send accepts me,
and in accepting me accepts Him who sent me.”
And who is this Jesus who sends apostles like Paul forth traveling from Syria to Cyprus to Asia Minor? Who is He of whom Paul rises to speak in this distant synagogue? Two quotes I offer for your consideration. First is the Baptist’s declaration, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals”(Lk.3:16). The second is the mere statement of fact that He “washed the feet of the disciples.” And so with two questions I will tell you who He is: Tell me, who is worthy to unfasten His sandals? Then tell me, whose feet does He not wash? Mary washed His feet with her tears and her hair and knew herself nothing but unworthy to touch Him (Lk.7:38). Jesus stoops to cleanse the feet of even Judas, His betraying apostle, who will kiss Him on the cheek, but to whom He shall turn the other one. He heals lepers; children come to Him – none is beyond His humble reach. Yet this man with the towel around His waist is none other than the Son of God.
The Israelites awaited His coming. Hundreds of years they expected Him. Paul tells us that “God testified, ‘I have found David son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart who will fulfill my every wish,” and in this Son of David the Father’s every wish is indeed fulfilled. Here is the “Savior for Israel.” It is of this Christ the Lord speaks when He says, “With my holy oil I have anointed Him, that my hand may be always with Him, and that my arm may make Him strong.” And He in turn says of the Lord, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.” So obedient is Jesus to the Father that there is none for whom He will not die; for all He shall drink the cup the Father offers, that the whole world might know the Father’s love. Here is the great “I AM”, “the fulfillment of Scripture,” the WORD made flesh, the image of the living God: Jesus, Son of David, Son of God – God Himself dwelling among us. And as He was Chosen, so He now chooses, instructing men to go forth.
Do “you know all these things”? Do you see who He is and hear the words He speaks? Then “blest will you be if you put them into practice.” For in humble service of the Name of God, with Him you shall “be exalted.” Bring forth His message of love.
O LORD, obedience to the Church
is obedience to your Son,
and obedience to your Son is obedience to you –
may we all be as faithful as Jesus.
YHWH, may we be men after your own heart, men formed in the image of Jesus and so reflecting your glory – may we be worthy to be called your sons. O let us never raise our heel against you but ever put into practice your humble love.
O LORD, you call us to serve as you called David; you anoint us with oil even as your only Son. Let us, too, be sons of David, calling you our God, our Rock, our Father – in the image of Jesus let us indeed be formed.
None is worthy to unfasten the sandals of our Savior. None of your poor creatures could even touch your Son. Yet He comes to wash our feet, to touch us with your merciful love. Help us, O LORD, to imitate Him; help us to reveal your glory in the service we show one another. Help us ever to declare your faithfulness, made known in your only Son.
Tue, 5 May 2020
(Acts 12:24-13:5; Ps.67:2-6,8; Jn.12:44-50)
“Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me,
to do the work for which I have called them.”
These words came to the Church at Antioch “while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting”; spoken by the Holy Spirit, they show how intimately the Church and her apostles are connected to the Lord Jesus and His Father.
In John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims, “The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to speak.” Jesus is sent by the Father. He is the image of the Father: “Whoever looks on me is seeing Him who sent me.” In the same way, Barnabas and Saul are “sent forth by the Holy Spirit” through the ministry of the Church, who “imposed hands on them and sent them off” to proclaim the word of God. Jesus is sent by the Father. Jesus speaks in the Holy Spirit the words of everlasting life. Hearing these words His children, His Church, go forth to the ends of the earth. There is absolute unity in the Church and all its members, as long as we are as obedient as Jesus, our Head, who declares, “Whatever I say is spoken just as He instructed”; as long as we are as faithful to the Spirit’s prompting as Jesus is to the Father’s will, we shall reflect His glory as He reflects the Father.
And what is the glory of the Son of God but to bring light to this dark world: “I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark.” The words He speaks, the instruction He offers and the sacrifice He makes, indeed bring spirit and life to those who listen and obey. He is true when He says He has not come to condemn but to save, for the world is already condemned by its sin and His words would bring it to life. And so, if we reject His words, we reject the lifeline He provides, and what hope can there be for us? If instead of asking that “He let His face shine upon us” and celebrating in joy the salvation that comes “among all nations” – if we do not seek the holy light of God, where else shall we find eternal life? “His commandment means eternal life”; all other words lead to destruction. We must follow the Lord and His way.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious to us that we are called even as Barnabas and Saul and the first Christians in the city of Antioch. The Spirit of God remains upon the Church, and He would send us forth in Jesus’ name to do the work and will of the Father. Do not reject His call upon your soul; put faith in Jesus and in Him who sent Him, and the Spirit will lead you forth.
O LORD, you speak through your Son
and call His apostles to proclaim your Word
to the ends of the earth – Alleluia!
YHWH, send us forth in the Holy Spirit; in the Name of your Son let us preach to the nations. Let us be a reflection of Him as He is the pure reflection of you. He brings your light to us by His presence among us – may we be His presence in this world that your light might shine unto all.
In your Son we see you, O LORD. Though you are hidden from all human eyes, Jesus gives us new vision. He indeed is Light itself and looking upon Him we see anew: our minds are illumined to look upon you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia!
For this great gift let us praise you, LORD. By this great blessing to us you are made known. Help us to declare to all what you reveal to us, to make you known even to the ends of the world. Your salvation come to all nations.
By faith in your Son we are saved and brought into your presence. Your Spirit be with us even this day to accomplish your mission.
Mon, 4 May 2020
(Acts 11:19-26; Ps.87:1-7,117:1; Jn.10:22-30)
“Of Zion they shall say:
‘One and all were born in her.’”
“I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those that know the Lord; of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia,” sings our psalmist today. Yes, “when the peoples are enrolled” in the kingdom of heaven, when it is noted: “This man was born there,” it shall not be to the soil of Jerusalem to which the angels refer, but to birth in the spirit of the place, in the Holy Spirit Himself, who leads all into the New Jerusalem. For all nations are called, and it matters no more the land of your origin.
This impotence of place and importance of the Spirit is made clear in Jesus’ words to “the Jews gathered around Him” “in the temple area, in Solomon’s portico.” To those here in the heart of the city of Jerusalem He says, “You are not my sheep.” They “refuse to believe” that He is the Messiah and so they prove that they are no sons of Abraham, that they have no faith. Only those of faith hear the voice of the Shepherd, and only these are admitted into the kingdom. This He tells them plainly. For what is He saying when He declares, “The Father and I are one” but that He dwells with the Father in heaven, and not upon this earth. The earth to which they cling shall pass away, but the kingdom shall last forever.
“My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says, and how that voice does work among all souls. (For this let us praise the Lord!) We are told in our first reading that at first “the community who had been dispersed by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, making the message known to none but Jews.” Here, even though the Word is spread far, it is kept for those born of the land of Zion. But then the change occurs, and the truth of the Word, which goes beyond all borders, becomes known, for “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene among them who had come to Antioch began to talk even to the Greeks, announcing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them.” The church in Jerusalem, the protector of the faith – whose seat is now in Rome – sends Barnabas to investigate. He finds “the evidence of God’s favor” and rejoices to realize the Lord’s sheep come from near and far. Here “in Antioch the disciples were called Christians for the first time.” Here it becomes clear that there is a new Church being formed, one that finds “eternal life” in following Jesus.
“The gates of Zion” “the Lord loves,” and to this holy mountain He brings all, through the Gate that is Jesus. And “no one shall snatch them out of [His] hand,” for this mountain cannot be shaken, this Temple cannot be torn down. It is of the life of heaven “all shall sing, in their festive dance” when they proclaim: “My home is within you.” And this land shall endure forever.
O LORD, let us be found in your Hand,
filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith,
living as your Son.
YHWH, into your House all faithful souls are called; in your Church all find a home. We are born into the New Jerusalem by virtue of our Baptism, and so become assimilated to Christ. And as He dwells with you as your Son, so we become as your holy children, wherever we may come from.
Jesus is one with you, dear Father, and we are called to be one with Him. Though from the Jews He comes, He goes out to all the earth, bringing the light of salvation. And when by the Spirit we are reborn in Him, when His sacrifice bears fruit in us and we come to eternal life, we become as your City, O God, our names written in Heaven.
You establish your Church, O LORD; the New Jerusalem is built up in your Name. And all who long for truth and love hear the Good News of your risen Son and fly with Him unto your kingdom, where they rejoice all the day.
Sun, 3 May 2020
(Acts 11:1-18; Ps.41:3,42:2-3,43:3-4; Jn.10:1-10 or Jn.10:11-18)
“God has granted life-giving repentance even to the Gentiles.”
In his vision Peter sees “an object like a big canvas… lowered down to [him] from the sky by its four corners.” Upon it he discerns “four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.” Like Noah’s ark it seems to contain all the animals upon it. But these animals he sees are not for the good Jew to eat: they are unclean. And so Peter protests when instructed to “slaughter, then eat.” But he is assured (and three times), “What God has purified you are not to call unclean,” even as “the canvas with everything in it was drawn up again into the sky.”
What is this shepherd to do – he who has been told by the Lord, “Feed my sheep”? When the uncircumcised come to him seeking salvation, how can he turn away? And so, as the canvas which came from the sky and returned to the sky, we learn that everything comes from God and returns to Him, and He calls whom He will. And so the Gentile man whose home Peter enters by the Spirit’s direction is “saved, and all [his] household.” “As [Peter] began to address them the Holy Spirit came upon them,” for they, too, “believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, even these thirst for God “as the hind [who] longs for the running waters,” and so are led to the Lord’s “holy mountain, to His dwelling place”; even these “go in to the altar of God.” For these unclean creatures are made as the pure and obedient sheep of Israel, heeding the Good Shepherd’s voice. Here are “the other sheep that do not belong to this fold” of which Jesus speaks, whom He leads, too, by His loving word.
All that He calls shall come to Him who lays down His life for the sake of the fold, by whom all “have life and have it to the full.” All living creatures are His own, for it is He who is the living God; and all who live, live for Him and through Him alone. The Son has come from the Father that we might know Him as He knows Him, and so that we might indeed have life. As good sheep let us follow in His way, and lead those behind us also to salvation. Let us all “go and behold the face of God” as we turn from anything that makes us unclean in His sight and listen for His voice leading our pure hearts.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Fri, 1 May 2020
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, let us live and act
as if we believe in your Son;
let us do the things He has done.
YHWH, you have loosed our bonds and raised us from death by the sacrifice of your Son, and in His Name all are now saved from their sins and consecrated to you. Help us to believe the words He speaks, to be of the Spirit and life and not the flesh. O let us come to you!
O LORD, let our faith not be shaken by the demands of your Son, by the challenge He offers us to believe and so come to life in His Name. Let your Church flourish and grow in fear of you and the consolation of the Spirit. Yes, let all be converted to love of you and serve to do your will in this world, till all come to dwell eternally in your kingdom.
This day we take up the cup of salvation and declare your praise, O LORD. This day let us fulfill our vows to you, that in your sight our death might be blessed and we be raised to life with you.
Thu, 30 April 2020
(Acts 9:1-20; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.6:52-59)
“My flesh is real food and my blood real drink.”
And “the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”
The truth is simply stated to those who wonder at His words today in our gospel. As the Israelites in the desert asked, “What is this?” when presented with manna as their food, so now the Jews say, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” For those who do not believe, it is impossible; but for those who believe, it is the gift of God.
Here is the Bread of Life in our midst, as real as the Light which shone around Saul and knocked him off his horse; as real as the voice which spoke aloud to his soul. This bread and wine on the table of the Lord, this great grace upon His altar of sacrifice, is indeed that which feeds us, that which sustains us – that which makes Him most present to us. Our first reading says of Saul that “his strength returned to him after he had taken food.” For three days he had fasted in darkness, experiencing the absolute blindness of his life as persecutor of the Church. Then Ananias laid his hands on him and he recovered his sight. Then he was baptized. Then he could come to the table of the Lord our God and gain the strength “to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.” Yes, the Scripture refers in fact but to ordinary food, but indeed it indicates the “real food” Saul shall soon come to know and find his spirit through.
“The man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” He will become one with the Son as He is with the Father. And he, too, the Lord will be speaking of when He asks, “Why are you persecuting me?” By this Bread we become so one with our God, and with Him we suffer for His Name. “I myself shall indicate to him how much he will have to suffer for my name,” Jesus says to Ananias. And so the disciple is convinced that this man who has done nothing but harm to God’s holy people is truly being called to come to the Lord of all. It is through such suffering that discipleship comes, as it is through His sacrifice we have this food upon our table.
Eat His Body, dear brothers and sisters. Drink His Blood. Let us share together this day this gift of oneness with our God. And let us be strong; and let us bleed with Him upon the cross, to bring His Name to all. “The fidelity of the Lord endures forever,” and He shall never leave us orphaned. He shall feed us forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread that is your Son,
that we might have strength to do your will.
YHWH, how shall we come to see that your Son is the Bread of Life and we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in us, to be united with Him as He is to you? We have scales upon our eyes and upon our hearts – how shall they fall away and our souls open to receive your Word? Send your disciples forth to lay their hands on all blinded men.
There are those still who persecute your Church, thinking they are acting in your Name, O LORD. There are many who cannot but harden their hearts to your gracious gift to them. Help all souls to accept your Son and see that it is His Body that acts in your Name. Help all come to the table of sacrifice and eat His flesh and drink His blood, that they too might proclaim Jesus as your Son.
From our horses we all need to fall; your light we need to shine about us. Let us hear your voice, O LORD, and be obedient to its commands, and so live in your presence forever.
Wed, 29 April 2020
(Acts 8:26-40; Ps.66:1,8-9,16-17,20; Jn.6:44-51)
“No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
How evident it is in our first reading that the Father draws all believers unto Himself. For though it is clear that the Ethiopian eunuch is in search of God, has a desire for God, and welcomes God – He is coming from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is reading Holy Scripture, and “invite[s] Philip to get in and sit down beside him” – which is necessary for belief as well, it is most certain that the Lord is leading him to Himself. The angel of the Lord directs Philip to the Ethiopian. The Spirit specifically instructs him to approach his carriage, and then inspires His disciple to speak to the eunuch of the Word of God and lead him into the waters of baptism (snatching him away immediately upon the completion of his task).
Also evident in our first reading is Jesus’ quotation of the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God.” For indeed it is God that, through Philip, enlightens the Ethiopian eunuch regarding the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah, and all of Scripture, “telling him the good news of Jesus.” It is “not that anyone has seen the Father,” for the Father is not visible to our human vision. But the Father has sent the Son, “the one who is from God,” and “He has seen the Father,” and He knows Him. And now through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son sends His disciples forth as His own flesh and blood, with the same Spirit that inspires Him, to reveal the Father’s love to a waiting world.
“The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” We are those who have heard His Word, who have been instructed in His way, and who have received His Body and His Blood. And so, having eaten “the bread that comes down from heaven,” we indeed become flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone. Wed we are to the Son of Man by the power of His Word and the blessing of His Sacrament. We have responded to the Lord’s call; He who draws all to Himself and to the Father has become our “living bread,” our life-giving water. And now at His command we must draw all men to the Son, who brings all to the Father.
The Light of the world shines in our midst, and we are drawn as moths to this flame, to Him who “is deprived of His life on earth.” And though we die in our turn as this Sheep who “was led to the slaughter,” yet “of His posterity,” and so our own, all the world will speak… and be drawn to Him who has been lifted up from the earth upon a cross, to Him who dwells with the Father in heaven.
O LORD, your Son is the living Bread
come down from Heaven;
let us seek Him and listen to Him,
and rejoice in Him.
YHWH, let us be taught by you; let us be drawn to you and receive the Bread that is your Son. Let us be baptized in His Name, with you and the Holy Spirit, and so let us come to eternal life in your kingdom. May all souls praise you for your goodness toward us!
What can we do but rejoice when we hear your voice speaking to us in the depths of our souls, when your Word is revealed to our ears and our hearts – when Jesus stands before us in the flesh and offers Himself to us for our salvation? And so, let all indeed come to Him, and so to you, LORD, and loudly sound your praise.
You stand before us in the flesh of your Son, O LORD our God, and this Good News goes forward by the power of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. We who eat the Bread He offers become His Body; let your Word now extend from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Tue, 28 April 2020
(Acts 8:1-8; Ps.66:1-7; Jn.6:35-40)
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
And why should there be such exultant joy among all the peoples of the earth? What should cause all men to “shout joyfully to God”? It is Jesus’ profession that “everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.” Nothing but life everlasting can bring such absolute joy, and we have the assurance from the Lord’s own lips that He “shall lose nothing of what [the Father] has given” Him, that all who come to Him He “will raise up on the last day.” Alleluia! Let us come to Him.
How evident the universal call of the Lord is in our first reading. Upon the persecution which follows the death of Stephen, Philip, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian “goes down to the town of Samaria” – where the Jews intermarried with the pagans of the land – “and there proclaimed the Messiah.” And we are told that “without exception, the crowds that heard Philip and saw the miracles he performed attended closely to what he had to say” and that “the rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch.” Here we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to the woman at the well, that all who worship Him will worship in spirit and in truth and not in any particular place; here we see the realization of the Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men truly are our neighbors. For now all are called into His holy fold. All now come to know the glory of the Lord. And, of course, he who leads the persecution against the growing Christian community, he who “entered house after house, dragged men and women out, and threw them into jail”… this same Saul we hear of today will soon become the great Apostle Paul, who travels to all the nations of the world converting waiting souls.
Yes, brothers and sisters, “He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot.” As the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, so now all God’s children pass through holy Baptism and have the way made straight before them. “The glory of His name” is upon us all, upon all who believe in His Son, and now we who were “paralytics or cripples” – who were unable to move for not having heard of His Name or who had had our limbs disjointed for having forgotten His Law – all, Gentile or Jew, are now welcomed into the Father’s eternal home. For “no one who comes will [the Son] reject.” In Him all find their dwelling, and so what should we do but “rejoice in Him” and “proclaim His glorious praise”?
O LORD, let us be raised with your Son
on the last Day – Alleluia!
YHWH, O how persecution brings great joy! For even as the disciples are hunted down and thrown into prison, many go out to new lands to proclaim the kingdom of God to waiting souls, souls who welcome the Word with shouts of joy. And, of course, it is looking upon Jesus on the Cross and believing in Him that brings us to eternal life. Alleluia! May the Word of God go out to the ends of the earth and all souls sing for joy at their salvation.
Jesus has assured us that He will lose nothing of what you, Father, have given Him; no one who comes to Him will He reject, but He will gather all your faithful children into your eternal presence. Let us but long to look upon Him whom you have sent. Let us but set our hearts on the love that passes not away. Let us but come to Him to find your surpassing glory, and all our sickness will be taken away, and we shall never thirst again.
Mon, 27 April 2020
(Acts 7:51-8:1; Ps.31:3-4,6-8,17,21; Jn.6:30-35)
“No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry,
no one who believes in me shall thirst again.”
“I myself am the bread of life,” Jesus declares, and it is in this Bread we take refuge. It is by this Bread we are fed.
Do you think that Stephen is at all hungry as he lives again the trial, way of the cross, and crucifixion of the Lord in our first reading today? No, even in this time, and perhaps especially in this sacrifice, the Lord feeds him with Bread from heaven. Even as he is stoned to death, the Lord God hides him “in the shelter of [His] presence from the plottings of men.”
Yes, in our first reading we have Jesus again chastising the elders and indeed all the people for their betrayal and murder of the Word of God. Here we have again Jesus being dragged “out of the city” and killed at the hands of those “who received the law through the ministry of angels [but] have not observed it.” And here again we have forgiveness offered with His last breath. Here is the persecuted Church found in the person of Stephen; here is Jesus. Recall Jesus’ words to Saul upon his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”(Acts 22:7)? And here is that same Saul overseeing this first “act of killing,” this first martyrdom of the Body of Christ.
But all the while Jesus is there, not only in the persecution, but quite evidently in His glory. “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand,” Stephen exclaims. And notice that it is not until this moment, not until they hear this declaration – despite their “shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears” – that the people are moved “as one man” to destroy that voice. Stephen’s chastisement “stung [them] to the heart” and made them “ground their teeth in anger,” but it is this Truth of the presence of the Lord which they simply cannot stand. And what is the significance of Stephen’s vision being the impetus for his own death? It does bring his stoning, but simultaneously it prepares him for such martyrdom, for now truly the Lord is with him. Before this he would not have been able to bear so completely this cross. And without this Bread he would not have been killed.
“God’s bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” That bread of life is in Stephen’s trust in the Lord and in his echoing the words of David’s psalm, which are Jesus’ own: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” For even as he dies, he is most alive. It is this same faith we need, brothers and sisters, and we shall never be hungry, and we shall never be without the Lord, but shall declare His love and His truth to all, happy to be called His own. The Lord’s “face shine[s] upon [His] servant[s],” and they always have the Bread they need.
O LORD, give us the Bread from Heaven, your Son,
to be with us even unto death,
and help us to proclaim His Name.
YHWH, into your hands let us commend our spirit, and we will be protected. Though stones rain down upon our heads, vision of you will light our way, and we shall come into your presence. At your right hand with Jesus let us stand.
In your Son let us take our refuge, O LORD, in Him and in His Cross. Let us be as He was, revealing His image to this fallen world. Let us proclaim the truth in His Name, let us accept the persecution it brings… and let us forgive those who kill us, those who would destroy your Word this day.
Jesus is our Bread from Heaven; it is in His flesh we find our home. Let us be His Body in this world, crucified and rising on high. O LORD, O faithful God, out trust is in you alone, and in your Son – in our lives let your will be done.
Sun, 26 April 2020
(Acts 6:8-15; Ps.119:1,23-24,26-27,29-30; Jn.6:22-29)
“This is the work of God:
have faith in the One whom He sent.”
It is this faith that moves Stephen; it is this work upon which he sets his heart. And so he was unmoved when “the people, the elders, and the scribes… confronted him, seized him, and led him off to the Sanhedrin” and “brought in false witnesses” against him. Surely the words of our psalm are fulfilled in him as they had been in the Lord: “Though princes meet and talk against me, your servant meditates on your statutes.” Thus it is that throughout his persecution, “Stephen’s face seemed like that of an angel” – through it all it is the voice of the Lord to which he listens. And one wonders if the members of the Sanhedrin had not “stared at him [so] intently” because they had seen that face of an angel not long before in the One whom they had crucified, the One who stood before them like a sheep before its shearers. And this one, too, they would sacrifice.
“You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you.” It is this food, which those who persecute him cannot see, that Stephen eats. If he were seeking to get his “fill of the loaves” which satisfy the stomach, he would not suffer the trial upon him, and not in such peace. Only Jesus gives this food, brothers and sisters. It is nourishment the world cannot touch, and to it there is no end. We need eat nothing else to sustain ourselves.
“Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” O Lord, what voice can compare with thine own? What word can stand where yours is spoken? For yours is “the way of truth,” and the truth cannot be shaken, cannot be changed over time. It is not subject to the corrupting forces present in our flesh; it is of the spirit. And so, in the Spirit let us be, called before your throne. Though we stand accused before the tribunals of this barren land, may your food be ever within us to sustain us – in your presence ever let us rest.
On this unshakable foundation we shall remain, even as the world passes away.
O LORD, let us have faith in your Son
and your work shall be done in us.
YHWH, let us meditate always on you and your wondrous deeds; let us eat of the food of the Spirit that passes not away, that we might come to dwell with you forever. We should not be concerned with the things of the body, with filling our bellies or even with whether we live or die. Like Stephen we should face all persecution with the patience of an angel, knowing you are at our side. And then we shall never die.
O LORD, if only it were eternal life upon which our hearts were set, then we would be truly blessed. Then we would have all we need, for then we would have you dwelling in our souls. You are Life itself, dear LORD, and this is what Jesus would give to us. This is what all His disciples preach, for they, too, would share what has been given them.
Teach us your ways, dear God; let us walk in your truth. And all wisdom will be ours, and we too will witness to your Holy One.
Thu, 23 April 2020
(Acts 5:34-42; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Jn.6:1-15)
“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living.”
Seeing the vast crowd following Him up the mountain as He seeks to sit with His disciples, Jesus asks the one without guile, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat.” In honesty Philip answers, essentially, “It is impossible.” Ah, but nothing is impossible with God.
Brothers, is it not their seeing “the bounty of the Lord” that causes the apostles to leave the Sanhedrin and the whipping they received at their hands “full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name”? And is not this bounty revealed most clearly here “in the land of the living” in the Bread of Life Jesus provides for us at His Eucharistic table? And so should we not rejoice every day in this miracle?
“Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Are not David’s words the ones Jesus speaks to His children in the feeding of the five thousand? Should the apostles not but sing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” as they stand each with one of the “twelve baskets full of pieces left over” from the miracle brought about at the Lord’s hands? Does He not here convey their mission of feeding His sheep?
And filled by the food at their hands, should not our own reaction be in accord with the joy expressed by the people in that green field, “This is undoubtedly the Prophet who is to come into the world”? For does He not come into us each time we receive Him?
But king He shall not be made, not in this world. No, this world cannot contain His Kingship, for we have a greater than David here. The land of the living will ultimately be not upon this grass beneath our feet, but upon the clouds of Heaven. Thus the persecution comes, you see. Thus those who go about “fighting God Himself” scourge and crucify the Word they cannot bear and the messengers who bring it to their ears. But the ill-treatment that comes by their jealous hands brings no fear but only encouragement to the hearts of His apostles.
Brothers and sisters, let us be as they who “day after day, both in the temple and at home… never stopped teaching and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus the Messiah,” making always this world as one with the kingdom of God.
O LORD, it is by faith we are fed,
and so let us seek you with all our hearts,
with our very lives.
YHWH, let us come to the Eucharistic banquet, that your Son may enter into us and we ever dwell as your temple in this world. Your bounty is revealed now, wrought by the hands of Jesus and brought to us by His disciples – let us partake of the Bread you provide and rejoice in all your blessings.
None can fight you, O LORD our God; none can destroy what you bring to life. And so, though whipped and ill-treated for the sake of the Name of our Savior, we can but rejoice indeed. For you cannot be overcome, nor those upon whom your Spirit rests. As we follow in the footsteps of your Son, we shall ever live with you.
In your House let us indeed make our home; you are our refuge, O LORD, and with you we are never afraid. For the destroying angel shall pass over all who eat of the flesh of the Lamb, all who are anointed by His blood.
Wed, 22 April 2020
(Acts 5:27-33; Ps.34:2,7,9,17-20; Jn.3:31-36)
“The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God;
He does not ration His gift of the Spirit.”
And thus it is that Peter and the apostles, sent by the Lord to speak His words, can boldly proclaim to the Sanhedrin’s chastisement for continuing “to teach about that name”: “Better for us to obey God than men!” In no way do they ration the Spirit as they testify that God “has raised up Jesus whom [they] put to death,” that it is “He whom God has exalted at His right hand as ruler and savior,” that He is “to bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” The praise of God and of His Son is “ever in [their] mouth,” for indeed they know the happiness of “the man who takes refuge in Him.”
And they know, too, the folly of those who deny the Truth of God’s presence in Jesus the Christ. For as He Himself says to Nicodemus in our gospel, “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God,” and as David states in his psalm, “The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth,” so the blessed Rock and his fellow apostles convey to the high priest and the Sanhedrin as they are persecuted by their hands. Their declaration that not only do they testify to Jesus as the Messiah but “so too does the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those that obey Him,” is a clear indictment of those to whom they speak, those who are deaf to the Spirit’s words. And it is for this implication that they lack the truth that the Sanhedrin “were stung to fury and wanted to kill them.”
But it is they who shall be killed. It is their rule which shall not last, which shall be overcome by the Just One and the Spirit of Truth upon Him and His own. It is Peter, who speaks for all the apostles, who shall lead the New Jerusalem, the holy Church of God. Such chastisement the leaders cannot bear, save perhaps for Nicodemus; the testimony of “the One who comes from heaven” they cannot accept, and so they fail to “certif[y] that God is truthful.” What then shall be left to them?
Brothers and sisters, though the just man find himself “brokenhearted,” “crushed in spirit,” and with many “troubles,” know that “out of them all the Lord delivers him.” And He shall deliver you, if you but speak His truth. Find strength in the witness of the apostles, in the saints and martyrs of all the ages, and in the Lord Himself. He is with the one He sends and so will bless him as he speaks the truth without fear. “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to Him,” and He, in turn, gives to those whom the Spirit inspires. Trust in Him with all your lives.
O LORD, by your risen Son
the evil are confronted and the just lifted up –
let your Spirit be upon us.
YHWH, your Spirit is upon the one who believes in your only Son, for He is from Heaven and so the Spirit is upon Him. Let us be as He is; let us live and speak the truth, despite all threats of persecution, knowing well that you will save us as we cry out to you and for you.
O LORD, let us never disobey you or your Son. For what life can he have who turns from your will? How can the Spirit rest upon him? Let us not be afraid to admit our guilt, that we have put to death our Savior and are responsible for His blood, and so let that blood pour over us for the forgiveness of sins as we repent of what we have done.
Let our hearts not be hardened, LORD, by the chastisement of your Son and those who follow Him. Let us accept their testimony, let us thirst for such truth. For only this will bring us from our earthly bonds to new life in your kingdom – let your Spirit be upon the brokenhearted to carry them to your presence.
Tue, 21 April 2020
(Acts 5:17-26; Ps.34:2-9; Jn.3:16-21)
“He who acts in truth comes into the light,
to make clear that his deeds are done in God.”
Jesus is “the light [that] came into the world,” and “happy the man who takes refuge in Him.” None shall fear anymore who love the Lord, for He shall answer all his cries. And newness of life shall be ours.
The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, “arrested the apostles and threw them into public jail.” They attempt to hide the truth in darkness, to kill the light of the Spirit. “During the night, however, an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the jail [and] led them forth,” telling them to preach again in the temple “about this new life.” And so, “they went into the temple at dawn and resumed their teaching.” Do you see the resurrection at work here, brothers and sisters? Do you see how the Word is rescued from the darkness of night, from the prison into which the world would cast it, and brought into the clear light of dawn? The Truth cannot be chained and death shall never overcome life.
And what do the apostles preach but the words Jesus whispers into the waiting ears of Nicodemus in the middle of the night – bringing him, too, out of the darkness into the Lord’s marvelous light: “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” Eternal life! This is the Word come from God through His only Son begotten in love for us all. The high priest and the Sadducees would hide this; but here one of the leaders listens. He does not question anymore how this can be. And so the seed of eternal life is planted in his heart.
That seed must be planted in all hearts, and so the apostles repeatedly return to preaching, unafraid of the consequences. For how clearly it has been shown them that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” How well they believe their own words, that in Jesus is found eternal life. In their hearts burns the faith, and so, openly they speak. And though they shall see just how much “men loved darkness rather than light,” yet they shall seek the salvation of all: unto death they shall stand in the light of truth, confident in the resurrection to follow.
May all believe “in the name of God’s only Son” and thus avoid condemnation. May all stand confidently in the Light of the new day, for the darkness of sin and death is banished when we call upon His Name.
O LORD, by faith in your Son and His resurrection,
may we be freed from all condemnation
and come into your light.
YHWH, in the morning light the apostles preach in the temple of the new life found in Jesus, your Son. From the prison of darkness they would rescue all souls, as they themselves have been rescued. Your angel delivers all who love you from death and fear; may our souls glory in the salvation found in your only Son.
That we might not die you sent Jesus into the world as the Light that conquers all darkness, and those who believe in Him come into the light and so find eternal life. There is no power that can chain or imprison your Word, O LORD, for it is your will that it go out to the ends of the earth.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to all men that all who seek the salvation of their souls, all who would be released from their afflictions, might find the freedom of your sons and daughters and do all in you and in your light, O LORD our God.
Mon, 20 April 2020
(Acts 4:32-37; Ps.93:1-2,5; Jn.3:7-15)
“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind.”
This oneness is itself of heaven, is itself the sign that they are “begotten of the Spirit.” And this oneness is reflected in a very real manner in the fact that “none of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common.” This sharing of goods, of “lay[ing] them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need,” is but an earthly thing. It is easy to see; it is easy to know, for it deals indeed with the things of the earth. But if like Nicodemus this earthly matter is beyond our comprehension, if we say such living as one on this plane is impossible, how far short we will fall of understanding the oneness that exists on the heavenly plane. For do you not see that one not only reflects the other, but in fact leads to the other? How can one be as the wind which “blows where it will,” how can one’s origin and destination be said to be unknown if one is unduly placed, indeed rooted, in the houses, in the property of this earth? And so Barnabas is indeed a “son of encouragement,” because by selling his entire farm and laying the money derived therewith at the apostles’ feet he is saying: I no longer live here on earth. My home is in heaven.
How tied we can be to earthly things. How blinded by them. And yet they can be a means to heaven, if one gives them to the Lord. For then already here in this world we will begin to see and know the life of heaven. Even now the Spirit shall move within us and our eyes will be opened to see “that all who believe may have eternal life” in Jesus. Yes, by the giving up of our goods, by dying to self in this real way, we may transcend this earthly plane.
“Holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.” Do you not understand this matter, brothers and sisters? Do you not see that you are called here on earth during your limited length of days to live as though in heaven? Do you not know that it is but this which will lead to the unlimited number of days lived in holiness in heaven? Do not think that one is somehow separated from the other, as if heaven can be kept apart, as if its power is not all-encompassing. Here you must begin; even here you must find yourself on that eternal road. For such has Jesus been lifted up, to show you the emptiness of your earthly self. To such oneness with Him and His disciples does He call you – to be a child of heaven. Let us walk together in the Spirit of the Lord and love one another with the love that comes only from God.
O LORD, let us be as the wind,
moved by your holy will alone.
YHWH, in Heaven with you we find our home, not in the things of this earth. And so as we give the things of this earth over to you and your apostles, we draw closer to you and your kingdom. Help us to be born of you, to have life in you and in your Spirit, and not put trust in any possession.
You are King, O LORD, in splendor robed, and holiness alone befits your House. Thus, if we would dwell with you, we must indeed be holy. And to be holy we must be purified of any attachment to this world. As Jesus is lifted up on the Cross, we must be lifted up with Him; as He stands empty of all things, so must we be, if we are to be ready for Heaven – if we are to be raised in glory with Him.
It is in the resurrection of Jesus we take our life, dear God, but to find His resurrection we must first die; to dwell with you in Heaven we must lay down our lives. O may we live here as His disciples!
Sun, 19 April 2020
(Acts 4:23-31; Ps.2:1-9; Jn.3:1-8)
“No one can see the rule of God
unless he is begotten from above.”
“Princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed,” we are told in our psalm as well as our first reading. But their rule shall be shattered “like an earthen dish” by the power of the Spirit and God’s anointed One, to whom He gives “the nations as an inheritance.” And in the Book of Acts we see the apostles begin to collect such inheritance “in the name of Jesus,” the “holy Servant” of the Sovereign Lord, the King He has set up “on Zion, [His] holy mountain.” All stream to Him upon seeing the “cures and signs and wonders” worked through them by the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel, it is these undeniable signs of God’s presence which lead a member of the princes who will crucify the Christ to seek understanding from Jesus. And how sad is the question Nicodemus whispers in the night to our Lord: “How can a man be born again once he is old?” It is sad not only because of the futility of his interpretation to “return to his mother’s womb,” but mainly because this is all he can see. He is so of the flesh he cannot understand anything but the flesh; and this sense extends even to the Pharisees’ grasp of the law, which has become as an empty shell void of meaning – bereft of the Spirit as they are. There is hope Nicodemus will hear the words of Jesus; there is possibility other leaders of the people will come to life. But first they will have to leave their vain pursuits behind.
“The wind blows where it will… but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.” So it is with the disciples as by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit “the place where they were gathered shook as they prayed”; and so, filled within with the Holy Spirit they “continued to speak God’s word with confidence.” They are born from above. They have new life in the name of Jesus. All their lives are sacrificed with Him to the will of God. And so the princes have no power over them, but to make them rejoice at the persecution they find at their empty hands.
“You must all be begotten from above,” brothers and sisters. None is to be left behind with the carcasses that gather beneath the eagles’ circling flight. Take refuge in the Lord of Life; be born now in His Spirit.
O LORD, may the house we are in
be shaken by the Holy Spirit, that in Jesus’ Name
we might proclaim the truth before kings.
YHWH, let us be born of the Spirit, let us take life in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit come through your only Son. In His hands is the inheritance of the nations; in Him all take refuge. Through Him and through His blood we find the strength to proclaim your praise in the face of persecution. Be with us in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Though the Gentiles rage and the kings of this earth conspire against your anointed One and all His children, their violence is in vain because you, O LORD, protect your chosen and give them power over every evil. By a word they are saved; by speaking your Name and declaring your glory, great signs and wonders are worked at their hands, for they are new creatures who take life in you.
O let us be born from above, begotten by your Spirit, O God!
Fri, 17 April 2020
(Acts 4:13-21; Ps.118:1,14-21; Mk.16:9-15)
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the good news to all creation.”
How faithfully Peter and John accomplish the Lord’s command, and with what strength, so much so that our first reading tells us, “The priests and elders were amazed as they observed [their] self-assurance” – for these “were uneducated men of no standing.” “How can this be?” they must have queried inside. “Then they recognized these men as having been with Jesus.” And so the answer had come: it is from Him all power derives. In His Spirit all God’s disciples “declare the works of the Lord.”
And how wonderfully silenced the leaders of the people are: “When they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them, they could think of nothing to say.” For the works of the Lord speak for themselves, and the power of the Spirit cannot be denied. And though these priests of the Old Covenant attempt to silence the glory of God, telling Peter and John “that under no circumstances were they to speak the name of Jesus or teach about Him,” these first of apostles declare confidently, “We cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen.” Indeed, “a remarkable show of power [takes] place in them.”
And what have they heard and seen? Our gospel tells us: “Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week.” From Mary Magdalene, to whom He first appeared, “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her.” And the same “good news” is announced to them by the two disciples who had sojourned to Emmaus. And though “they refused to believe it,” and though when “Jesus was revealed to the Eleven,” when they saw His risen presence for themselves, He chastised them “for their disbelief and their stubbornness” – though the doubt from human corruption still clings to them, it shall no longer be so (as evidenced by Peter and John) when Pentecost has come. In the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the Word shall be preached and believed in strength and power.
“The right hand of the Lord has struck with power.” “The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just” has come now in fullness to all His children who hear and see and declare that the Lord is risen. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior,” sing all the redeemed. As the psalmist “give[s] thanks to the Lord” and the people who had witnessed the great work wrought through the apostles “were praising God for what had happened,” so joy is unbounded for all who enter the “gates of justice” and know in their bones the power of the Spirit at work through the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Brothers and sisters, let your joy be known by all; declare the good news to all the earth, that light may come to a world in darkness.
O LORD, let the Good News of your Son’s resurrection
be proclaimed to all believing souls.
YHWH, your right hand has struck with power, and what can we do but declare the glory of your risen Son by the Spirit that is now upon us? Though we be uneducated men of no standing in this world, yet you make us instruments of your salvation as we proclaim what we have heard and seen and believed – Jesus is indeed raised from the dead and in His Name all souls are raised with Him.
And so, let us enter your House and praise your glory, O LORD our God. Let us not stand outside the gates doubting the Word that comes to us or even persecuting the bearers of such Good News. Let us believe! Let us believe because it is Truth, undeniable, standing before us in the light of day and burning in our hearts.
May all who seek your kingdom be delivered from death and come to you in joy, LORD, by the power of the Spirit Jesus imparts to us.
Thu, 16 April 2020
(Acts 4:1-12; Ps.118:1-2,4,22-27; Jn.21:1-14)
“Jesus is ‘the stone rejected by you the builders
which has become the cornerstone.’”
What Peter has proclaimed to the people, he now proclaims even more boldly to their leaders: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.” Jesus, whom they crucified, is the Messiah. And the same quote Jesus offered the Pharisees after making it clear to them they would lose dominion over God’s vineyard – over His people, over His Church – Peter invokes before the high-priestly class today… for here standing before them is the new authority on earth.
And so, here the Church is gathered, under Peter and the apostles. This day of preaching in Jesus’ name by the power of the Holy Spirit has brought about five thousand children to God, and there shall be no stopping the power of the Word which goes forth to draw in all believers. On the Church goes “proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in the person of Jesus.”
Our gospel today is the perfect parallel to our first reading, and reveals just from where the power of the apostles’ preaching comes. First, it shows Peter as the clear leader. He says among the seven – the number of fullness – disciples assembled: “I am going out to fish.” And they reply: “We will join you.” All night they toil in vain. Why? Because they lack the cornerstone who comes to them in the morning. (Notice in our first reading Peter and John are put in jail for the night to await their trial in the morning. But, ironically, this night is less of a prison than the one spent toiling in vain on the sea… for this day they have been most fruitful; for by this time they have been anointed by the Spirit.)
In the morning Jesus stands upon the shore and instructs them where to cast their net, much as He did when first He called His fishermen apostles. And like that morning, their catch is overwhelming. John cries, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumps into the water to swim to His Jesus as the others tow the net and fish behind him. Once all have come to land, it is Peter who goes “aboard and haul[s] ashore the net loaded with sizable fish” and drops it at the Lord’s feet. But it is the single fish Jesus has prepared which is most important, with which they must begin their feast. For Jesus is that fish Himself, the cornerstone upon whom the tallest of buildings stands. And see how He feeds them as at the Eucharistic table: “Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” Here the Bread of Life is distributed to those who shall impart it to all others.
One hundred and fifty-three (the number of Hail Marys in a full Rosary, pre-Mysteries of Light) fish are gathered by the disciples in a net beyond the point of breaking. Five thousand men are drawn into the fold by Peter and John’s fearless speaking. God’s Church is here built up on the cornerstone that is Jesus; and so we exclaim with our psalmist today: “O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light.” Amen.
O LORD, by the resurrection of your Son
and the power of the Holy Spirit upon His apostles
may your Church be filled to overflowing
with believing souls.
YHWH, the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone of your Church, and we are built upon Him and upon the Rock He has set in place as the first of His apostles. From the hands of the leaders of the Jews divine power has been wrested, for now Peter is your high priest and John your scribe. Now only in the Name of Jesus is salvation to be won, and all who come to Him and eat at His table enter into your House.
This is the day you, LORD, have made. Let us rejoice in the blessings now upon us in your Son. For now we are raised from the dead; now we share in His glory… now we know your merciful love and are given strength to do your work in this world.
On the flesh of your Son let us feed, O LORD; His Body let us be. Led by Peter may we come to Him who waits for us upon the shore – in the morning light let us praise your glory!
Wed, 15 April 2020
(Acts 3:11-26; Ps.8:2,5-9; Lk.24:35-48)
“In His name, penance for the remission of sins
is to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
And so Peter begins the preaching at the temple: “When God raised up His servant, He sent Him to you first to bless you by turning you from your evil ways,” he announces clearly to the Jews, those first to hear of the Savior, Jesus. And again he speaks boldly and repeatedly of their sin: “You disowned the Holy and Just One… You put to death the Author of life,” for it is absolutely essential that they recognize their guilt if they are to find their salvation. How can they repent of what they do not see? How can “a season of refreshment be granted” through Jesus if they do not know that they are despoiled? And brothers and sisters, it is certainly no different for us. We must recognize our own complicity in the Lord’s death or we shall have no place with Him in life. Hear the message of His apostle: “Reform your lives! Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!” If you have nothing to reform, how are you a hearer of the Good News? And if your repentance falls short of knowing the blood of Christ upon your hands, how ineffective it will be.
“All the prophets… have announced the events of these days.” “God has brought to fulfillment by this means what He announced long ago: that His Messiah would suffer.” What Peter proclaims, Jesus confirms in His own teaching to the disciples, “It is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,” as “He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.” What must be has been, and now is – Jesus has died and risen. “Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I,” He says to His incredulous apostles. And so in “flesh and bones” the Truth has become known, and this same flesh we eat each day.
The disciples same “sheer joy and wonder” we should share, brothers and sisters. For what is theirs is ours, too. Though “out of ignorance” we crucified Him, in grace we now know Him. And so should we not cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth!” Should His blessed care for this sinful man not make us incredulous with joy? For though man is guilty of the Lord’s own death, yet He has “made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.” How little we deserve the Messiah, now glorified in heaven, to be with us; but oh how generous He is. No “power or holiness of our own” has brought us to life – it is His forgiveness that has made us whole.
O LORD, let us proclaim the Name of your risen Son
to all men.
YHWH, how wonderful is the Name of your Son throughout all the earth, for by it all men are healed – all are raised up from their sin and made whole again. With what wonder we should look upon Him risen from the dead; and with what faith we should believe in Him.
O LORD, in the Name of Jesus let penance for the remission of sins be preached to all nations. Beginning at Jerusalem and going forth to the ends of the earth, let it be known that the Messiah has suffered and died and been raised on the third day. May all souls be taught by the apostles you send forth – may we come to understanding of the Scriptures and turn from our sin.
O let us all rejoice in the newness of life He brings! the season of refreshment upon us in His Name. O LORD, let us reform our lives and turn to you that with Him whom you have glorified we might be one.
Tue, 14 April 2020
(Acts 3:1-10; Ps.105:1-9; Lk.24:13-35)
“The Lord is risen! It is true!”
And how it is proven this day! The two disciples find their “hearts burning inside” as He “explain[s] the Scriptures” to them on the road to Emmaus, and then they come “to know Him in the breaking of bread.” “The Eleven and the rest of the company” of disciples rejoice in Jerusalem because “He has appeared to Simon.” And the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate is pulled up by Peter “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean,” and he goes “into the temple with [Peter and John] – walking, jumping about, and praising God.” “Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!”
Brothers and sisters, the Church is as this crippled beggar at the temple gate; it is as these confused disciples sojourning for answers to their deepest questions and fears – it is the whole company assembled and astounded and declaring with joy the truth of God’s presence among us. To the beggar the Lord says with Peter, “Look at us!” To those on the road to Emmaus He says, “How slow you are to believe!” And to all He appears in the breaking of the bread. The beggar He heals; in the seeker He instills faith; and to us all He leaves His Blessed Sacrament, the greatest proof of His presence.
“Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.” And as great as His healing may be, as wonderful as His teaching is, the greatest of these is the table He sets before us and the Body and Blood with which He nourishes us. Here is His love most known, here where we “give thanks to the Lord” and “invoke His name.” For in this we are healed, in this His teaching is made real – until the end of time this shall stand as proof of His presence… in this is ever declared, “The Lord is risen!”
“He remembers His covenant which He made binding for a thousand generations.” Never shall this blessing leave us, brothers and sisters. Always we have His Word at work within us, and always we share His Body and His Blood. Here He remains “powerful in word and deed in the eyes of God and all the people.” Let us not fail to declare all He has done for us; let us never be afraid to proclaim His truth. For then all shall be “struck with astonishment”; then all shall know the Risen Lord.
O LORD, in our astonishment let us rejoice
at Jesus’ risen presence among us.
YHWH, your Son has been raised and for this we praise you, for it means our salvation – we who were once crippled by sin, by His death and resurrection are made whole again, and so the words of your prophets are fulfilled. May we recognize Him each day in the breaking of the Bread, and may we live with Him now and forever.
O LORD, let us invoke the Name of your only Son and we shall know His salvation, we shall know the grace and mercy that pour forth from His sacrifice. He had to suffer and die at the hands of His own people that His people and all who would come to Him might be saved from their sin. For this blessing He has imparted to us let us dance and sing on this holy day.
Jesus is the One who sets all men free; dear LORD, let us know His risen presence in our midst this very hour and always.
Mon, 13 April 2020
(Acts 2:36-41; Ps.33:4-5,18-20,22; Jn.20:11-18)
“Let the whole house of Israel know beyond any doubt
that God has made both Lord and Messiah
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Brothers and sisters, we are all as Mary Magdalene who “stood weeping beside the tomb,” and like the Jews who were “deeply shaken” by the words of Peter. Though it is to the Chosen people “that the promise was made,” it extends “to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls.” To all sinners, to all who ask His apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” the Lord responds: “Reform and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven”; indeed, then we “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – then our eyes shall be opened to His presence among us as we turn to Him in tears.
“She turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there,” this greatest of sinners become most faithful disciple. And as He speaks the name of her who cares only for Him – “Mary!” – so He calls “each one” of us who come to Him in our desperation by name; so He cares for all sinners who love Him and seek Him with all their heart. And the same joy that she has known shall also be ours; we shall declare, “I have seen the Lord!” to all who wait to hear of Him.
“Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray,” Peter urges his fellow Jews on Pentecost day, and “some three thousand” accepted his message and were baptized. Here is where the Church begins to grow, here among those who crucified the Lord – here among His own brothers in the flesh. And though the message is primarily to them this day, indeed it is for all who would be grafted to this tree of life, to this race of whom Jesus is come. For, indeed, it is so that all are sinners, that all bear the guilt of His crucifixion; and so to all who hear His call for repentance, forgiveness may come, and the Spirit follow.
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him… to deliver them from death.” What was sung of under the Old Covenant is even more true today; and so let what was true of those faithful under the Old be so with us now. Let it be that “our soul waits for the Lord.” Let us declare, “Upright is the word of the Lord,” and the Word in its fullness shall be ours, and the tears we cry shall be answered quickly by our Lord and Savior who calls us each by name.
O LORD, let us ascend to where your Son is,
far from this world of sin,
even to your side.
YHWH, baptized in tears we cry out to you that we might see your only Son, that we might know He is risen from the dead and sits now at your right hand. Leave us not alone in this world with our sins and weakness, but let your Word please strengthen us; in your mercy deliver us from death.
We have crucified the Holy One; we have killed our Lord. The Messiah has come to save us from our sins, to reunite us with you, O God, and we have turned away from Him and laid Him in a tomb. And what are we to do now? What can save us now that our very life we have murdered?
O LORD, let us be truly repentant of our sins and baptized in the Name of the One you have raised from the dead. To Him let us cling this day, to Him who has ascended on high. In Jesus may we be blessed to make our home, freed from the darkness of the tomb.
Sun, 12 April 2020
(Acts 2:14,22-33; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Mt.28:8-15)
“You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.”
“It was impossible that death should keep its hold on Him.” And so “the paths of life” we now walk; “joy in [His] presence” is ours – “in confidence” we abide forever. For God has “raised Him up again,” this Jesus, our Lord. Let us be witnesses of His truth to the ends of the earth. Like Peter, our Holy Father, let us be faithful to the Word at work within us.
As the women “ran to carry the good news to [Jesus’] disciples” that He, the Lord, was no longer in the tomb, in the belly of this earth, the guards ran to the chief priests, who concocted a lie. See how the ways diverge between truth and lie. And see today the power with which Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, stands up even amongst those who had Jesus crucified, and proclaims the truth of the risen Lord. And God is with Him. He has heard the Lord’s words: “Peace!” and “Do not be afraid!” He knows full well that his soul will never be abandoned to the netherworld; he has life at work in him, the life that comes from “the resurrection of the Messiah.” And so he witnesses in strength, as do our popes to this day.
Let us “live on in hope,” brothers and sisters, “half-overjoyed and half-fearful,” though only with the fear of God which overwhelms our souls, and He will be before us always, speaking words of peace; and we will see Him walking in the places He was wont to walk on earth… and we will see Him walking everywhere we walk. For by our side will He be constantly in the power of the Spirit to lead and guide us always unto Life, the life that is already with us and will never leave us.
The Lord is risen, alleluia! The powers of death and hell shall never touch us, for in Him alone do we “take refuge,” He alone is our “allotted portion and cup” – in Him alone do we believe, and so we “shall not be disturbed” even by the darkness of night. The Light has dawned; in Him let our souls rejoice.
O LORD, let us take refuge in your Son,
who was not abandoned to the nether world
but lives and goes before us this day.
YHWH, in your Son we find the path to life, the path upon which the Spirit guides us. In His resurrection we are preserved from death and take eternal refuge. Nothing shall disturb us now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, for death no longer has power over us. Let us have but faith in Him and in His reassuring presence among us.
O LORD our God, our hope is in you and in the One who sits upon your throne. He is the Son of David who has conquered death and in whom there is no corruption. And if we believe that He is the One, to the grave we shall not come. For in Him we enter life.
The lies of this world let us leave far behind, O LORD. In truth alone let us make our home and the Spirit of Truth will be upon us to free us from death’s bitter pangs. He has died that we might live; let us find our peace in Him.
Tue, 7 April 2020
(Is.50:4-9; Ps.69:8-10,21-22,31,33-34; Mt.26:14-25)
“The Son of Man is departing, as Scripture says of Him.”
Of Him in Scripture we read, “Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” Even as death approaches, even as His betrayer goes forth (perhaps especially at this dark time), He sets His face “like flint” to confront those who oppose Him, those who would destroy Him. In His own voice He speaks to us in the first reading and the psalm of His trial and His resolve: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard,” though “they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And He stands alone before such blasphemy – “I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none.”
Though only one of the Twelve betrays Him, all abandon Him in His brokenness; none stands by His side as He “bear[s] insult” in the Name of God. But the Father does not desert Him: “See, the Lord God is my help.” “For the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And when He cries from the cross, it is not His fate He bemoans, but our own, whose dark separation from God He takes upon Himself as our guilt He bears.
Yes, He must depart in this way; He must suffer at our hands. But that it is written so, and that by this our souls are made whole, in no way nullifies that we have sinned – sin remains the evil it is. As for Judas, yet it would have been “better for him if he had never been born,” for the fires of hell are real; and as for the souls who abandon Him, as for all His disciples, it is only through similar darkness that we shall come back to His light.
Tears will fill our eyes as we look upon Him whom we have pierced. Yet, fear not, for the Lord hears the cry of the “lowly ones… who seek God”; and Scripture speaks just as faithfully of the third day.
O LORD, zeal for your House consumes your Son,
and so He is betrayed by one of His own
for thirty pieces of silver.
YHWH, your Son is betrayed by one who sits at table with Him, and by all He will be abandoned, left alone to die upon a cross. Yet He goes as you call Him; freely He accomplishes your will, with complete faith in your protection, with the strength found only in your love. O help us to be as He is! to bear all with patience, to so freely offer our backs for beating and our faces for spitting upon.
O how shall we go from putting gall in His food to being fed at His table in the kingdom if you do not help us, O LORD our God? We have no hope if you have no mercy on our poor souls. Let us find the strength He takes in you.
Only one of the Twelve betrays Him, only one hands Him over for crucifixion, but we all line the path He must tread – we are all cause for His shame. Dear LORD, in His sacrifice may we find freedom from such sin.
Mon, 6 April 2020
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Jn.13:21-33,36-38)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
The Lord is with His servant, with Israel, with Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God: “From my mother’s womb you are my strength… O God, you have taught me from my youth.” And to this “sharp-edged sword” the Lord had concealed “in the shadow of His arm,” to this “polished arrow” He has hidden in His quiver, God says: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” He who was called from birth, given His name in His mother’s womb, prepared before all the ages, now comes to reveal the glory of God.
And how is it “the Son of Man [is] glorified and God is glorified in Him”? We see in our gospel the moment the glorification begins; we see in our gospel the path by which it comes. At table at the Last Supper Jesus grows “deeply troubled,” for the time of His betrayal has come. Judas eats the morsel of food dipped in the dish and “immediately after, Satan entered his heart.” Then, “no sooner had Judas eaten the morsel than he went out,” and, we are told, “It was night.” And immediately upon Judas’ leaving, the Lord proclaims His glorification has begun.
Here begins the Passion. Here begins the first of the three days Jesus will spend in the belly of the earth. How unlike the days the Servant spent in His mother’s womb these days shall be! And yet it is precisely these days and in this way that what God has prepared for Him and for all creation shall come to its fulfillment. Now shall the arrow be sharpened fully and shot forth to pierce all men’s hearts with truth – even as the nails pierce His hands and the sword His side. Through the depths of such absolute darkness, light shall shine forth, and this light shall in time reach to the ends of the world.
Now the time has come. Now all shall abandon Him. Now by the Suffering Servant shall all be saved.
O LORD, make us glorious in your sight,
even as your Son has been glorified by His sacrifice.
YHWH, now the darkness falls upon your Son and He is prepared to be glorified. In the death He must endure He will be revealed as the light of the world. Though we cannot follow Him now, let us soon follow where He leads. Help us, dear God, to lay down our lives with Him that we might come to Heaven.
He has been hidden for all ages, concealed in the shadow of your arm, LORD; but now this arrow is shot forth, this sword unveiled for all eyes to see. Now is the time for all to be justified by His holy sacrifice. O let us join with Him! Let us not fear the darkness which sets upon this corrupted earth but suffer its betrayal with the patience of the Son of Man.
In Him let us take our refuge, LORD; let us be one with your Servant. To this world help us bring His light, you who have been our trust from our Mother’s womb.
Sun, 5 April 2020
(Is.42:1-7; Ps.27:1-3,13-14; Jn.12:1-11)
“I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations.”
He has come “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who dwell in darkness.” “He establishes justice on the earth,” and this justice is His bringing light to our darkness. But He could not release us from the dungeon unless He Himself had entered the dungeon. How else could light penetrate the darkness? And so He not only enters the veil of flesh, humbling Himself to be born as a man, but also gives Himself up to the death we all must die – in our own form He pays the wages of our sin, that we might be released from its prison.
How could we “be stouthearted” “when evildoers come at [us] to devour [our] flesh,” we who are so weakened by the scourges of sin, if He had not strengthened us by standing in our stead? How could we truly say with David, “Though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust,” if He had not defeated the enemy which comes against us? We can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” only because Jesus has brought God’s justice into our very midst, to our flesh and to our bone, by entering into the world of darkness we have created and taking upon Himself the death we deserved.
Lazarus, who sits at table with Jesus a week before His own death, is a sign of our release from the dungeon, from the tomb of our sin. As “Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in Him on account of Lazarus,” so should all be drawn to the promise of new life which the Lord shall fulfill now in His death and resurrection. And as we enter Holy Week, as we prepare ourselves for the great mysteries of our faith, how appropriate for Jesus to sit at table “in the land of the living” with this dead man. See that He will sit with us all just so in the kingdom of heaven.
Now the light comes; now justice is done. The aromatic fragrance of His holy sacrifice fills this house, and darkness shall be banished forever.
O LORD, your Son is the light
which saves us even from death;
let us die and rise with Him.
YHWH, as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so all who believe will be raised with Him and sit at His table in Heaven. As He defended Mary from Judas’ attack, so He will advocate for us all against the accusations of the evil one, so we will be protected from all condemnation and come into the light of your presence. Though we dwell as if in a dungeon here, release we shall soon find in the offering of your Son. From all our enemies we shall be saved; let us stand fast with Jesus.
The fragrance of the Spirit fills our souls even as darkness closes in. O LORD, your promise to us is sweet indeed and gives us courage in this world. For what victory has our Savior not won, what power has withstood His justice? And so, even death He tramples underfoot as in a tomb He is laid.
Fri, 3 April 2020
(Ez.37:21-28; Jer.31:10-13; Jn.11:45-57)
“My sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to “gather [His people] from all sides to bring them back to their land”; He is the “one prince for [us] all” by whom God makes complete the “everlasting covenant” with us: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It is He “who make[s] Israel holy,” who makes us all one in Himself. And so, “no longer shall [we] defile [our]selves,” but we “shall live by [His] statutes and carefully observe [His] decrees” now written upon our hearts by the power of the Spirit upon His flesh and blood.
In our gospel the Sanhedrin fear the loss of the Jewish nation on earth when they say, “The Romans will come and sweep away our sanctuary and our nation” because of the wonders Jesus performs and the power He has over all people. So when Caiaphas asks, “Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” it is of the protection of the temple and its worship he speaks and which is his concern. But, of course, he unwittingly prophesies the salvation of all in the eternal, heavenly Temple of the New Jerusalem, where Jesus “gather[s] into one all the dispersed children of God.”
Yes, “Jesus would die for the nation”; He would give Himself that all might live. The plan “to kill Him” He shall allow to bear fruit; though all are on the lookout to apprehend Him, yet He shall come to the feast to offer Himself as the spotless Lamb of Passover, to purge the nation of its sins and protect it from final damnation. And so, “He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, He guards them as a shepherd His flock.” And so we should “come streaming to the Lord’s blessings: the grain, the wine, and the oil” – so we should come now and consume His Body and His Blood. For the New Covenant is now set in place; His sanctuary is here among us. And forever He is seated in the heavenly kingdom to make intercession for us and for the purging of our sins, to draw into the presence of the Father all His holy children.
He is “likely to come to the feast,” brothers and sisters, for the feast would be nothing without Him. It is His sacrifice alone which “turn[s] our mourning into joy,” which “shall make [all] merry and dance” in the sanctuary of God’s love.
O LORD, by the blood of your Son
gather into one all your dispersed children.
YHWH, your feast is prepared and we are called now to enter in to the dancing and joy of your kingdom. Your sanctuary is set up in our midst, your Son has come into our presence, and so we become one holy nation in Him. Though He must die to save us and unite us, He shall face such a fate openly, and so lead us to the heights of Zion.
Up to Jerusalem Jesus comes with all the people for the Passover feast. The Temple you have set up comes now to the temple made by human hands; and though the latter shall soon be destroyed, the former shall never pass away but be set up forever as our dwelling place. O let us worship you, LORD, in your holy Temple!
Jesus is indeed our salvation and the New Covenant founded in His Body and Blood is now among us. O LORD, let your sacrificial Lamb be prince over us that we may come streaming to His blessings.
Thu, 2 April 2020
(Jer.20:10-13; Ps.18:2-7; Jn.10:31-42)
“He has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked.”
As Jeremiah’s persecutors surround him on every side but are “put to utter shame” when he calls out to the Lord, so as the Jews “again tried to arrest Him,” Jesus again “eluded their grasp.” And so when “the breakers of death surged around [us], the destroying floods overwhelmed [us]...” so when our sins seemed to have conquered our souls, the Lord came to save us.
Evil is all around. Always there is “terror on every side!” and those who would shout, “Denounce! Let us denounce him!” because of our missteps, because of our stumbling into sin. Ever the devil is on the watch to trap us with his wiles and cast our souls into “the netherworld.” But always, too, the Lord is present, and when to Him we entrust our cause, saying with David, “O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,” whenever we call upon His name, He hears and saves us from “the snares of death.” “Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies,” David sings. “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord,” Jeremiah echoes, and he, too, is safe. All who call upon Him He hears, and affords them His salvation.
“The Jews reached for rocks to stone Him,” but still He called to their hearts: “Many good deeds have I shown you from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” Still He invites them to look upon the good works He has done in His Father’s name to see that He is indeed the Son; still He desires their salvation. The signs He performs are recognized by many people who thus “come to believe in Him,” but the hardness of heart of these the leaders continues to blind their eyes to the truth of what John the Baptist said and what He is. This ignorance shall find its ultimate expression soon in the crucifixion of the Son of God; but even from this the Lord shall deliver Him – and by this sacrifice we shall all be saved. And many more will come to know thereby that He is God.
The Lord rescues all our souls when we cry out to Him. Let us put all trust in His saving grace.
O LORD, thank you for hearing our cries;
from death you have delivered us
by the grace of your Son
YHWH, let us come to believe that Jesus is your Son, one with you and the source of our salvation. You rescue from the power of the wicked all who put their trust in Him; even from death we are preserved by taking our refuge in Him. And so, why should we doubt His divinity?
In our distress you looked upon us, dear LORD, and heard us as we called out to you; and so you sent your only Son to answer our deepest prayers. We were enmeshed in the snares of death but from the netherworld you saved our souls, giving us safety in the blood of Jesus, the Christ. We thank you and we praise you, O God, for your grace upon us.
O let us ever praise your Name, our LORD and God, and we shall be ever safe from our enemies. Let us take our refuge in the flesh of your Son and nothing shall ever harm us. May our cry always come to your ears.
Wed, 1 April 2020
(Gn.17:3-9; Ps.105:4-9; Jn.8:51-59)
“Before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
Abraham is a great man, the blessed patriarch, to whom God made the promise: “I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” So Abraham becomes “the father of a host of nations,” not just by lineage, but by faith in the promise God has given him and the keeping of the covenant with Him. Abraham is father to all who believe in the one God: the sons of Israel, the Jews; the sons of Ishmael, the Muslims; and all who worship the living Lord and “seek to serve Him constantly.”
Yet as great as Abraham is, as fertile as he has become, Jesus is the greater and the more prosperous, for He Himself is the Lord our God, from whom Abraham receives his promise and so his greatness. “Abraham rejoiced that he might see [Jesus’] day. He saw it and was glad.” For here come to us is the only Son of the God before whom he “prostrated himself”; here is the Lord of all the nations of whom Abraham is father.
Jesus is equal with the Father, coeternal and all-powerful. He does not make Himself so but receives such glory from the Father, with whom He is always. How hard it is for the Jews to hear this. Though according to their faith they have been waiting for just such arrival of the Holy One, of the Messiah, yet their hearts are unable to accept such divine wonder. And so “they picked up rocks to throw at Jesus” upon His solemn declaration of His divinity.
Is it not just so hard for all of us who call ourselves believers to come to terms with the awesome majesty of Jesus our God? It seems something so far beyond our belief, that God could walk in our midst. And yet HE IS; and so we must see how much greater than any man He is. For though fully a man born in time and murdered upon a cross, yet He is God, living forever as Lord of all. So great a gift, so wonderful a presence, is all that assures us that we “shall never see death” but be as He is, alive in the kingdom as He has promised. Keep His word, and the Word of Life will be with you.
O LORD, a greater than Abraham we have in your Son,
for He is God with you –
let us live forever in Him.