Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

LENT, Year A

The Season of Lent
Lent is the approximately forty day period celebrated by the Church each year to prepare for the Lord's resurrection at Easter. All Catholics between the ages of 18 and not yet 59 are bound by precept of the Church to abstention from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Fridays of Lent, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting, at a minimum, means eating one full meal and two other, smaller, meals together which do not constitute a second full meal. Catholics age 14 up to those not yet 18, and age 59 up to those not yet 80 are bound only by the rules of abstinence from meat. Fasting and abstinence should always be accompanied by prayer, whether privately or publicly at daily Mass. The Church also requires what has come to be called the "Easter duty", which means every Catholic who has made their first Confession must receive this Sacrament of forgiveness at least once a year, during the Lenten season.

Select liturgy here

Ash Wednesday

First Sunday

Second Sunday

Third Sunday

Fourth Sunday

Fifth Sunday

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2, 12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Cor 5, 20-6,2; Matthew 6, 1-6. 16-18

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
LENT. Ashes. Fasting. Fish on Fridays. These and many more things come to mind as we begin again this most important period of preparation in the Church year. Though the Church requires fasting and abstinence, these are not the most important things about Lent. Fasting and abstinence are no help to us unless they move us to deeper prayer, bring us to a deeper commitment to the most important truths about our life in Christ: baptism, forgiveness of sins and a share in the Resurrection through conversion of heart and mind.

The Catechism speaks of this conversion:

...Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.(Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7, 14-15, 21, 25, 33.) These are the works of Lent, and the reason for fasting and abstinence.

The Church from very early in her life has celebrated baptism for converts each Easter. The aspects of fasting, penance, and other disciplines of Lent, came into custom in imitation of our Lord in the desert and as a way of helping those already baptized to spiritually renew their own baptismal life. These are celebrated in anticipation of the resurrection promised to all the baptized in Christ's own rising from the dead on that first Lord's Day.

Let us pray for all who are preparing to enter the Church at Easter, whether through baptism or profession of our Roman Catholic faith for the first time. And may our own fasting, penance, almsgiving and prayer be the seeds which promise a more abundant life in Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.

Let us pray for one another until, next week, we again "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

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First Sunday

Genesis 2, 7-9; 3, 1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5, 12-19; Matthew 4, 1-11

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"The greatest hunger is the hunger for love." Mother Teresa said this often, and, after her years of experience living among, feeding, clothing and caring for the poorest of the poor, she is an expert on human needs. Jesus Christ is that love incarnate for which every human being has been created. Every human being will satisfy their hunger for God only by seeking satisfaction in God. Jesus Christ is that bread, truly present among us: the Bread of Life. "The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world." And in this Bread alone can our thirst for love be satisfied.

The Catechism offers a meditation on our Lord's teaching in today's Gospel, and on the petition of the Lord's Prayer for our "daily bread."

This petition, with the responsibility it involves, also applies to another hunger from which men are perishing: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but...by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,' (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4) that is by the Word he speaks and the Spirit he breathes forth. Christians must make every effort "to proclaim the good news to the poor." There is a famine on earth, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." (Am 8:11) For this reason the specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerns the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.(Jn 6:26-58) (CCC 2835)

God is love, and we possess the love of God by possessing his life, receiving His Body and Blood in the Communion of the Mass. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." With this gift we lack nothing in this world, for infinite love is ours.

Let us pray for one another until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

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Second Sunday

Genesis 12, 1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Tim 1, 8-10; Matthew 17, 1-9

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ "was transfigured before their eyes. His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes as radiant as light."

Last Sunday in our Gospel we heard that our Lord's sharing in our flesh meant that he suffered temptation. As God he does not share our sin, for sin cannot coexist with his holiness, but he shares with us every other reality of our earthly existence. He does this in order to transform us, as a share in his Transfiguration, of which we read in today's Gospel. Our Lord's divine nature is now our gift, so that our human nature can be raised up, glorified, changed completely by his holiness. The marvelous reality of our Christian life is that we share more and more in Christ's glory until, one day, we see Him face to face.

The Transfiguration is also a strengthening, a source of hope in time of trial.

From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master 'began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things...and be killed, and on the third day be raised.'(Mt 16:21) Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.(Mt 16:22-23) In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, (Mt 17:1-8) before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking 'of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.' (Lk 9:31)" (CCC 554) "For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to 'enter into his glory.'(Lk 24:26) (CCC 555)

In this season of Lent, let us put off all those things which are not of Christ, so that we may more and more put on His glory and share in God's own peace and joy. Let us approach the Sunday liturgy, sacramental Confession and all of the good things our Lord has given us, not as obligations or empty duties to fulfill, but as invitations to share in the gift of His love and life which never end.

Let us pray for one another until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

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Third Sunday

Exodus 17, 3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5, 1-2. 5-8; St. John 4, 5-42

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today's gospel is the magnificent and moving account of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. What begins as a seemingly chance encounter while drawing water, becomes for the woman the revelation of the God-man: "I know there is a Messiah coming," the woman says, and Christ responds: "I who speak to you am he." She receives a gift: "the water I give shall become a fountain within...welling up to eternal life." Will we be like this simple woman, whose simplicity enables her to encounter, without prejudice, the revelation of Almighty God? Will each one of us accept God as He lovingly and wisely reveals Himself, or will we, tragically, reject Him because He does not appear according to our preconceived notions?

God's desire to embrace us draws near in Christ, and we enjoy the nearness of God in prayer.

'If you knew the gift of God!' (Jn 4:10) The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him." (CCC 2560)

Accept and practice daily the gift of prayer. Our baptism joins us to the perfect prayer and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The well of prayer is as deep as God, and our thirst is quenched fully only in Him. The waters of baptism "welling up to eternal life" are the key to the life of prayer. Pray. "Draw water joyfully at the springs of salvation."

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

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Fourth Sunday

Laetare Sunday

1 Samuel 16,1.6-7.10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5, 8-14; St. John 9, 1-41

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The tragedy greater than all others is to be blind and to say that we can see. There are so many areas where we are perilously blind to the ways in which our actions, words, thoughts and desires have jeopardized our eternal salvation. Our redemption in Christ must begin with an honest assessment of our fallen nature, with our intellects darkened and our wills weakened, wounded by the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve.
We dread to hear our Lord speak these words in judgment of us: " 'But we see', you say, and your sin remains." Self-righteousness and hypocritical posturing are abhorrent to God, who favors us when we embrace our true place before him as Our Lady does, one of humility and gratitude, of praise and thanksgiving. This is accomplished by heeding the Lord's call for repentance through authentic conversion.

Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, (Cf. Am 5:24; Isa 1:17.) by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance. (Cf. Lk 9:23.) (CCC 1435)

The Catechism illuminates the teaching of our Lord.

Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. (Lk 5:30) Against those among them 'who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others," Jesus affirmed: 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'(Lk 18:9) He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves. (Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41) (CCC 588)

Our Lenten journey toward Easter cannot be complete without the fullness of God's mercy granted in sacramental Confession. Since all are with sin, all are in need of repentance. In Lent we must let the scales fall from our eyes, to see ourselves as we truly are before our thrice-holy God. Whether or not we are conscious of mortal sin, Confession always grants the graces of Christ to the repentant sinner.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

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Liturgy Note
Today is Laetare Sunday: the joy at one stage of our Lenten journey accomplished and a foretaste of the joy of Easter, which springs from the Cross of Christ. Every Mass, every Sunday, even in Lent is an experience of the joys and splendor of the new Jerusalem, the Church on earth and the heavenly city. We celebrate that today, Laetare Sunday, with the rose colored vestments, the playing of the organ and the flowers on the altar, all signs of the Church's joy, alive with the Resurrection, which cannot be contained even in Lent, though we still refrain from Alleluias and the singing of the Gloria until the magnificence of the Easter Vigil. Our entrance antiphon sets the tone: "Laetare Jerusalem; Rejoice Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her; rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow; that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation."


Fifth Sunday

Ezekiel 37, 12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8, 8-11; St. John 11, 1-45

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus wept.

Our Lord's passionate love for us could not have taken him farther than the Cross. He poured out the ultimate gift, his own life-blood and broken body. His tears, whether over the death of his beloved friend Lazarus or his own people who rejected him, were of the ultimate, divine, compassion, and they bespoke his commitment to the Father's will to the end for our sake.

The sign of resurrection he bestowed in raising Lazarus indicated the object of our own hope. "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." We obtain this promise when we cast all our sins, doubts, earthly attachments, and desire for human respect behind our backs and run the race faithfully to meet the Lord.
We must desire Jesus Christ above all things, even life itself in this world. By this we obtain Life everlasting.

Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: "I am the Resurrection and the life." (Jn 11:25) It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. (Jn 6:40) Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, (Jn 11) announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the 'sign of Jonah,' (Mt 12:39) the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day. (Jn 2:19-22)" (CCC 994)

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

( Publish with permission.) www.christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/