meeting Christ in the liturgy library


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First Sunday of Advent, A
Isaiah 2. 1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we hear words of warning, a description by Christ of His second coming on the Final Day. "The Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect." It is that coming of the Lord for each of us upon which we meditate in these first weeks of Advent.
The Lord makes clear that the authentic Christian lives with a sense of urgency. He leaves no doubt in our minds that all of us face the judgment, and that the day will come, whether sooner or later, when God will bring the kingdom to its fullness. When that day comes, all will be caught up in the baptism of the "Holy Spirit and fire," God's power and glory fully revealed in its awful and terrible splendor. It will be for each of us like the burning of fire, and like the strongest and most powerful of windstorms.
On the judgment day the Catechism has this to say: "Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent, (Rev 22:20) even though 'it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.( Acts 1:7)(CCC 673)
God our just Judge is like the figure of the one who winnows the wheat, separating the good grain from the chaff, the part of the grain which is useless and must be thrown away: His winnowing-fan is in his hand, he will reward those who have been faithful. How do we live as faithful Christians? Through lives continually transformed by the power of God's mercy, fully granted us in Christ. This Advent, experience rebirth in the sacrament of Confession; experience Christ's mercy in its fullest form this side of Heaven and prepare well for His coming again. The gift of peace will be yours at Christmas.
Then Christmas season is truly a time for rejoicing, and lights and decorations help us to spread that spirit, but if they take the place of an authentic spiritual preparation we lose the purpose of the season. Give the central place of importance to Christ by using an Advent wreath or calendar at home, and by postponing final Christmas decorating until December 17th, the day on which the Church begins its meditation and proclamation of the infancy narratives. In this way, we will better proclaim, and live, the truth which sets us free in the birth of our Lord on December 24th at midnight.

Looking forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Copy with Permission)

Second Sunday of Advent, A
Isaiah 11, 1-10; Psalm 72; Rom 15, 4-9; Matthew 3, 1-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand." These words of John the Baptist warn us against sleeping our lives away, against spiritual laziness. Like headlines about a disaster on the front page of the newspaper, the Gospel of Jesus, made manifest in the words and actions of St. John, are urgent and sometimes frightening. Our Lord makes it clear that we cannot afford confusion about where we are heading. We must realize that our words and actions of each day, of every moment, have eternal significance. Christianity is not a science of escaping as much punishment as possible in the hands of an angry God. Christianity is a relationship, important above all others. Our faith should be our very life, more precious than all other things. If we cannot say this is true, then we are not the Christians our Lord calls us to be. If we realize that the stakes are eternal, than the words of Christ will not be lost upon us. We will take his words and teachings to heart, as spirit and life.
The Catechism instructs about the role of St. John. "St John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. (Mt 3:3) "Prophet of the Most High," John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. (Lk 1:76) He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom," whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (Jn 1:29) Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah," John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (Lk 1:17) (CCC 523)
This kingdom proclaimed and lived by St. John is for us also. Our faith is one of reaching out, proclaiming Christ to others, inviting others to share the life of Christ. "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men." Preaching, teaching and proclaiming the fantastic news about the kingdom is not just for the apostles, the pope, bishops, and priests, but for all. Our life, first given in baptism, by its nature seeks to share itself with others. Faith will not satisfy, will not bring more life and grow, if we are content to keep it inside. True faith seeks generously to be shared with all of the brothers and sisters we meet. Share your faith, be "fishers of men", and your faith-life will overflow in joy and will surely grow, welling up to eternal life.

Looking forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Copy with Permission)

 THIRD Sunday of Advent, A
Isaiah 35, 1-6.10; Psalm 146; Jas 5, 7-10; Matthew 11, 2-11

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Jesus testifies to himself both through his words and his works. He reveals the kingdom to all who are open to see and to hear the truth. The disciples of John come to him to hear his testimony. Because they are open to the truth, they will hear and believe. They will know the power and peace of the kingdom. The Catechism addresses these signs of the kingdom in Christ. "The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. (Jn 5:36) To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.(Mk 5:25-34) So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. (Jn 10:31-38) But his miracles can also be occasions for "offense", (Mt 11:6) they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons." (Jn 11:47-48)(CCC 548) Let us accept the gift of signs according to the Father's will, never taking offense at his marvelous providence, in which he promises not a "hair of our heads" will be harmed. Let us wait upon the Lord in patience as we ask for all our needs in prayer, confident that he will never fail to reveal the kingdom to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Looking forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Copy with Permission)

Fourth Sunday of Advent, A
Isaiah 7, 10-14; Ps 24; Romans 1, 1-7; Matthew 1, 18-24

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The perpetual virginity of Mary, part of God's plan, comes to our attention in today's Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter one, verses eighteen to twenty-four. In the Catechism we read: "The gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility ( Lk 1:26-38): 'That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,' said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee. (Mt 1:20) The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son." (Is 7:14) (CCC 497)
Christian virginity is holy
We live in a cynical and godless age, in which the sacredness of marriage and family life is under vociferous attack. In such times, the virtue of virginity is spurned; presumed humanly impossible, undesirable, or somehow suspect. "People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond : Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition , mockery, or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike; so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands it in the "connection of these mysteries with one another" in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignites of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: 'Mary's virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence.' " (CCC 498)
Mary is "ever-virgin"
"The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth 'did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.' And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the 'Ever-virgin.' " (CCC 499)
"Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. (Mk 3:31-35) The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, 'brothers of Jesus,' are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls 'the other Mary.' They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. (Gen 13:8; 14:6; 29:15) (CCC 500) Looking forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Copy with Permission)


FIRST Sunday of Advent, B
Isaiah 63, 16-17. 19; 64, 2-7; Psalm 80;
1 Cor 1, 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"What I say to you, I say to all: Be on guard!"
The world from God's perspective must appear a veritable beehive of activity as man goes about his perennial task of seeking "the good." Once man has what he wants to possess, he guards it and cares for it. What is the one thing above all others for which you and I make daily sacrifices and in pursuit of which we spend great time and effort? Are we "on guard"? For what? Why?

The young man and woman, deviantly pursuing sexual pleasure outside of marital commitment, "guard" their Godless lifestyle by putting their newborn child in a plastic bag and throwing it into a garbage can. Women and men, married as well as not, seeking the fantasy of sex without consequences "guard" themselves against what they believe to be the "disease" of pregnancy. They turn to abortifacient contraception, and to abortion in ever-increasing numbers when contraception fails.

Doctors too selfish to truly care for the well-being of their patients "guard" their free-time and profits by prescribing abortifacient contraceptives and dangerous implants and shots, rather than taking the time to learn and teach God's beautiful, natural, healthy, and effective means of spacing and delaying births through natural family planning. Today pleasure is "guarded", at the expense of health and life of the body, at the expense of the child conceived, by the marital act sullied in a brief shameful encounter devoid of love or marital commitment. The "cult of the body" leaves no effort undone in pursuit of physique, "guarding" the passing splendor of the body while neglecting the higher good of mind and spirit and the moral life.

Organizations worldwide seek to "guard" the environment or endangered species from the effects of man's work and life, obsessed by ecological concerns in a bizarre denial of the human holocausts in our midst. This while the most beautiful and perfect "ecology" in all of creation, that of the mind, body, soul and spirit of the human person, is attacked in the womb, in old age, if unfit, handicapped or voiceless.

Misguided parents seek to "guard" economic security at the expense of their children. The security and happiness of childhood is marred as babies are shifted daily from one caretaker to another, denied the love and presence of their parents, whom no person and no amount of money or financial security can replace.

Blind nationalists or revolutionaries seek to "guard" their national identity through a genocidal bloodbath in East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, and other places through "ethnic cleansing", dirtying their own hands through murderous wars which cry out to heaven. These and other conflicts have raised up a near-countless host of Catholic and Christian martyrs in this bloody "suffering century", as it is described by Pope John Paul II.

The Catechism discusses the petition of the Our Father, "and lead us not into temptation," in reference to the gospel according to St. Mark, chapter thirteen, verses thirty-three to thirty-seven. The one who is truly on guard is the one who struggles against temptation through union with God in prayer. To "be on guard" means to turn away from sin, to cast all one's sins behind one's back. Sin begins with our consenting to temptation (CCC 2846). Only by prayer and spiritual watchfulness are we ready for the "appointed time" of the judgment, the coming of the Lord in glory to invite forever into the kingdom those who have sought Him and His love above all things.

"Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!" When, roused to attention by Christ's unmistakable words of warning, we discover what is that thing we "guard" most, will we find it something lasting? Or are we "asleep", lulled into spiritual blindness by our love of comfort, our fear of human respect, our lust for money, our romance with a false "security." The true vision given by Christian faith infuses us with the truth to see that the only security is in God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. In prayer, the prayer of the Our Father and the perfect prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we embrace Christ. Pray for the blessing of strength in battle, for the grace of watching in love while others sleep, pray for victory over temptation. Effective prayer is a generous expression of love, rather than a hurried obligation, or a perfunctory rattle of words.

Such a battle and such a victory become possible only in prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. (Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44) In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance in communion with his own. Vigilance is 'custody of the heart,' and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: 'Keep them in your name.'(Jn 17:11; Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37) The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch. (1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2) Finally this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. 'Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.'(Rev 16:15)

The greatest tragedy of all, beyond the power of words or weeping to express, is the murder of the soul and of the conscience. They invite everlasting exile from God who, though they may pursue and gain the whole world, "guarding" it as a treasure, reject eternal life and lose their souls in the process. I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Publish with permission.)

SECOND Sunday of Advent, B
Isaiah 40, 1-5.9-11; Psalm 85;
2 Peter 3, 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"O come, o come, Emmanuel."

"But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Gal 4:4-5) This is "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God": (Mk 1:11) God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation - he has sent his own "beloved Son." (Mk 1:11) (CCC 422)

The Catechism beautifully expresses what we anticipate and celebrate in this Advent season. We take special efforts in liturgy and life to prepare ourselves anew to receive our Lord in the commemoration of his birth in a fitting spiritual way. We also mark the historical birth of Christ in a continuing witness of the historicity of our faith. What we recite in the Creed did indeed really and truly take place.

"We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He 'came from God,' (Jn 13:3) 'descended from heaven,' (Jn 13:3;6:33) and 'came in the flesh.' (1 Jn 4:2) For 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father...And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace."(Jn 1:14, 16)(CCC 423)

The bookstores today offer a wide variety of religious titles. Some purport to be "autobiographies" of God, some seek to remake Jesus Christ as a sinful human being, denying His divinity. Some of the most popular titles denigrate the authentic Christian faith and attack the Church. Among the many who buy these books are some who call themselves Christians. It is often the case that when a religious figure or authority encourages Christians to avoid buying or reading certain books or viewing certain films that are inimical to the faith, there is a public outcry against "book banning", and fear-mongers dredge up images of a rebirth of the inquisitions or book burnings. But for those who understand that salvation comes through faith, and that the faith must be loved, cherished and protected, it just makes good sound sense to avoid books, films and any influences that would deny and tear down what we know to be the truth. What good could come of reading a book which denies the Son of God existed, that he knew who he was, that he rose from the dead?

St. Paul teaches in one of his letters, "say only the good things men need to hear." Our Lord reserved his most severe condemnation for those who scandalize the faith of the weak. It is for these reasons that we seek out those things which feed and nourish our faith, and reject or avoid those things which are destructive or corrosive of our faith.

Above all, we encounter Christ in Word and sacrament. In the liturgy, the source and summit of our Christian life, we have the first source of the upbuilding of the kingdom within us and within the communio of our Catholic Church. Begin or renew the practice of the prescribed postures for the Mass, for these are practical means of entering more deeply into the Paschal mystery fully present in the Eucharistic sacrifice. These include, (1), a bow of the head at the holy names of Jesus, the three persons of the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saint of the day in whose honor the liturgy is offered; ,(2), a profound bow at the words: "by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man" in the Creed; ,(3), the striking of the breast at the words "that I have sinned through my own fault" in the Confiteor; and, (4), the "strongly recommended" sign of reverence, such as the genuflection, while in procession to receive Communion. By our actions as well as our words we show our sincerity as we pray "O come, O rod of Jesse's stem; O come, O come Emmanuel." Let us grow more profoundly in our desire for the coming of the Lord in the liturgy that we may be found acceptable on the great day of His coming in glory.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy," Father Cusick (Copy with Permission)

THIRD Sunday of Advent, B
Isaiah 61, 1-2,.10-11; Luke 1:46-54;
1 Thes 5, 16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Look to the coming of the Lord, "prepare the way of the Lord", as does John, humbly proclaiming, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29) This phrase, in the Latin, "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi," has been handed down in the sacred liturgy, said by the priest while holding up the sacred Host, the Body and Blood of Christ, for the adoration of the people. John the Baptist, man of holy humility and bold proclamation, demands that we turn our eyes to Christ, who "takes away the sin of the world." Wholehearted desire for Christ begins with honest acknowledgment of our sinfulness, "the sin of the world": both original sin, ours by "origin" from our first parents, and personal sins. "The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, 'the sin of the world.' (Jn 1:29)" (CCC 407)

"This dramatic situation of 'the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one' (1 Jn 5:19) makes man's life a battle: 'The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.' (Gaudium et spes, 37, art. 2)" (CCC 409)
Much of what ails the world today is rooted in an erroneous view of the human person, a view which has omitted the reality of original sin. Two effects remain in man after baptism, flowing from the sin of our first parents: a darkened intellect and a weakened will. Unless we acknowledge this fact, we struggle to love Christ in vain and deny he is God. The Lord has told us, "Without me you can do nothing." If we believe that we can accomplish anything good without Christ, we deny him, we deny the need for salvation, we claim to save ourselves.

"The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails 'captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil.' (Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb. 2:14.) Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, and morals."

The judges, the courts, and small lobbying groups with large bank accounts today demand, for example, that the label "marriage" be applied to something other than a lifelong union between man and woman alone. This has become possible because the world has become unmoored from rootedness in God which alone can guide man and woman to an authentic understanding of themselves, of each other, of God's will and plan, and, in Christ, of the possibility of holiness and salvation. Adrift without Christ, the individual is left only with the false gods of desire and self-will. Many divorced and remarried persons, rendering their own opinions as magisterial, re-admit themselves to Communion in violation of the express teaching of the Church that each marriage be submitted to the judgment of the Church and that men and women have their marriages blessed by the Church before participating further in the sacramental life. Many today are their own magisteriums, rendering the truth of God mere opinion, equal to the scientific theories of the day, or the preference of the majority. Denial of the "sin of the world", both original and personal, is a fatal error. Life is in Christ alone, and Christ alone can exchange sin and death for life.

Our Church is a prophet, preparing the way for Christ both at Advent and the end of time, guiding us as we walk the paths of our vocations through the world. The Church is Mother and Teacher, "Mater et Magistra" as Pope John XXIII declared. The Church is such because of, and for, the will of Christ the Lord. The Church does not offer mere opinion when she opens and explains the Word of God, handed down to us through Scripture and Tradition. The Church teaches with the authority of God Himself. "I give you the gift of the Holy Spirit", "I will be with you always", "He who hears you, hears me."

John the Baptist guides us in Advent, a people who look to Christ alone to take away our sins and to open heaven for us when he comes again in glory. Christ is the "Lamb of God", to whom we confidently go to receive the fullness of God's mercy. Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Go humbly, and with a sense of urgency, to receive him who unburdens us of the weight of death and shameof sin and gives us in exchange his unending, divine life. I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick (Publish with permission.)

FOURTH Sunday of Advent, B
2 Samuel 7:1-5.8-11.16; Psalm 89;
Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." (Lk 1:28, RSV Catholic Edition) For nearly two millennia Catholics, and other Christians, have committed to memory these words of the angel Gabriel, "Ave Maria, gratia plena", as they pore devotedly over the sacred scriptures. The angelic salutation, now incorporated into the prayer of the Hail Mary, is sent up to heaven millions of times each day from every corner of the globe. Our frequent repetition of these words can dull our sense of awe for the fantastic event which they announced: the incarnation of God.

So also the tinsel, lights, gifts and parties, which sometimes overwhelm us in competition with the message and celebration of Advent, can take away from the spiritual preparation which should guide the way for the birth of the Lord at Christmas. Giving complete attention to the hectic events and attractions around us can dull our awareness of those less tangible divine realities which are the sure source of lasting joy. The season has become a steady barrage of advertisements, with mobbed stores, endless traffic, long lines at the counters and mass hysteria, such as we see over a small red stuffed animal, for the sake of attaining which store workers are trampled and which fetches thousands of dollars on the rare occasion when it is not out of stock. It is possible that these events can be expressions of happiness, but more often than not, immersion in material excesses distracts from the reason for giving gifts, for celebrating, for singing with joy: the gift of the Savior.

Perhaps the story has been told so many times that we have lost interest in it as if it is simply old news. The Good News is "good" and "news" precisely because, if we hear its truth with the grace of faith, it will move our hearts and minds to praise and glorify God for the life, the light, the embrace of love he has given us in Christ. We will be moved to commit ourselves in thought, word and action to live as the praise of God's glory by renouncing Satan and all his works and empty promises.

The blessed virgin Mary, saluted as "full of grace" by the angel, freely chooses to cooperate with God's plan, such that our Savior was "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit," as we recite in the Creed. "From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived 'by the Holy Spirit without human seed.' (Council of the Lateran, 469)." (CCC 496)

This faith we profess was described by St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century thusly: "You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,...he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate...he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen." (CCC 496)

The virginal birth of Christ and Mary's perpetual virginity are often ridiculed or questioned, even by Christians. Some so-called "theologians" misuse their learning to call these facts into question in books and articles. Comedians and entertainers delight in mocking the virginity of Our Lady. Each of us can experience a weakening of our own faith as we hear and see others question the authority of scripture and tradition underlying these great mysteries of faith or belittle God and sacred people or things.

"People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery, or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike; so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the 'connection of these mysteries with one another' in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: 'Mary's virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence.' " (CCC 498) The real event of Christ's birth has taken place so that the real gift of grace, and its fruit in faith, will enable us to meet and know Christ here and now. God's love is generous. He gives the one gift without limit: himself.

Through the miracle of faith, belief in things unseen, we encounter Christ and grow in our love of him now. Christ is really and truly born for us only if we are prepared to celebrate the anniversary of his birth as a moment of faith. Advent is a time for renewal of faith, and faith grows only with a deeper commitment to renounce sin. Our preparation for our guests would be patently insincere and a charade were we to commence our celebration before their arrival. How much more should our spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ be accomplished through ardent offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, personal prayer, spiritual reading and Confession. Such are the marks of our sincerity even as we string lights, wrap gifts and fight traffic in the search of the 'perfect' holiday. The 'holy day' is the best holiday.

It is a continuing miracle that the whole world pauses to celebrate at Christmas. Far more marvelous is the blessed Christian for whom the lights, festive parties and gift-giving are only signs of the real source of abiding joy: the gift of Jesus, "he who saves his people from their sins."

Prepare well for a truly merry, blessed, 'Christ-Mass'.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick (Publish with permission.)