Meeting Christ in the Liturgy Library

LENT, Year B

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.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick ( Publish with permission.)

First Sunday

Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts..." (Mk 1:13)

"The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. (Cf. Mk. 1:12-13) At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him 'until an opportune time.' (Lk 4:13)" (CCC 438)

"The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he 'binds the strong man' to take back his plunder. (Cf. Ps 95:10; Mk 3:27) Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father." (CCC 539)

"Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. (Cf. Mt 16:21-25) This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: 'For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.' (Heb 4:15) By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.' (CCC 540)

We fast as he fasted; we pray as he prayed. We detach ourselves more fully from anything that might "compromise our filial attitude toward God" our true Father. We join ourselves more closely to Him who died with us that we might rise with him.

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

Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116;
Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Holiness is the best defense.

Military planners believe that conventional "over-there" warfare is a thing of the past. Enemies now will zap computer systems, plant bombs in civilian buildings, cultivate terrorist cells within the borders of their opponents, destroying them from within.

Americans once prided themselves on their national security and internal peace. The UN building and Oklahoma city prove that those days are over; risk comes both from without and from within. Violence of all kinds is on the increase, and millions are spent in search of perfect security.

Recent lessons confirm the wisdom of the ages: the only true solution to man's slavery to fear of suffering and death does not come from this world. In the transfiguring glory which Christ reveals to the select few on the mountain is the answer to man's desperation. "...he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them." (Mk 9:3) His appearance reveals the eternal power of God, which comes not from this world and which no earthly power can vanquish.

Holiness is the answer.

Jesus Christ is the way for every man and woman. Security comes not from physical defense, for power ever escalates and the forces of nature are unpredictable. Weapons of destruction fall into evil hands every day and all of us live with the threat of violence. Peace cannot come through higher walls, more locks on the door or a move to the "country". The wise man will seek the security that can never be taken away: the fortification, the stronghold of God's grace, realizing that the only true threat is the evil that he embraces with his intellect and will, not that which he suffers at the hands of another. The strength of a holy life is possessing and living Christ's own life, the Resurrection and the Life which is victorious over every power. Jesus Christ is the only power which can promise us that, though we may sustain every torture or means of violence that man has sinfully devised for the destruction of the body, our heart, mind, soul and strength can yet be with God at every moment. No matter what may come in this life, no matter what the future may hold, we know and believe that a holy life is the only certain security, for in it lies the seed of heavenly glory.

Anything which destroys the glory of God in us is rejected as evil by those who sincerely seek holiness. The worst violence is the destruction of God's image through man's own complicity, at an epidemic level today. The culture of death is at once the most ignored and the greatest threat. The moral evil of surgical sterilization in voluntary vasectomy, hysterectomy, and tubal ligation is a violation of the human person, yet a growing means of regulating births. Abortion is not only the murder of a child, it is at the same time dehumanizing and degrading for the mother. Sin is most evil for it renders man and woman incapable of glorifying God in their bodies.

"The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: 'Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.' 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.' (Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6) On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: 'Listen to him!' (Mk 9:7; cf. Deut 6:4-5) Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you." (Jn 15:12) This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example. (Cf. Mk 8:4) " (CCC 459)

We glorify God in our bodies through a self-offering configured to the Cross and consecrated in the glorified and risen Christ. He reveals his glory to strengthen us for our share in His suffering which comes with total rejection of evil.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick (Publish with permission.)

Third Sunday

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Cor 1:22-25; John 2:13-25

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It was with great anger born of reverence for his Father and zeal for his glory that Christ confronted the desecration of the Temple. "And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple." (Jn 2:15)

"Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth. (Lk 2:22-39) At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's business. He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover. (Cf. Lk 2:41) His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts. (Cf. Jn 2:13-14; 15:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8:2; 10:22-23)" (CCC 583)

Greater by far is the temple, not made by human hands, of our Lord's Body, of which he says, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The temple in Jerusalem as a sign of God is now far superceded by a perfect temple. "I and the Father are one." (Jn 10:30) Yahweh now provides in the eternal Son the perfect priest, altar and victim of the one Sacrifice. The Creator is infinitely greater than his creatures. Far beyond the ability of mere creatures is the worship due the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lamb of God. Only in the Son can we worship the Almighty in a fitting way. Now adopted by God in baptism we dare to call God "Father" and to approach the Holy of Holies.

No mere monuments of cold lifeless stone are our "temples". Our churches are the authentic descendants of the temple in Jerusalem. Each tabernacle housing the Body and Blood of the Lord is a true "Ark of the Covenant". It is the presence of the living God himself who makes each church and chapel a true temple, where we must bow down in awe before the all-holy God.

"Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. (Cf. Mt 21:13) He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: 'You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me' (Jn 2:16-17; cf. Ps 69:10) After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple. (Cf. Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20, 21)" (CCC 584)

"I will be with you always." Because of Christ our churches today are indeed a "privileged place of encounter with God." Our reverence for the temples of today should far outstrip the reverence of the apostles for the Jewish temple. Peter and the Apostles have handed down to us through the true priesthood the living Christ in the Eucharist, far greater than the manna, the treasured "show bread" kept hidden from view in the Ark in the innermost court of the Temple.

Do we offer the reverential worship demanded of us by Christ's divinity as we stand in his presence before the tabernacle? Do we mistake his silent presence for permission to ignore him?

Do we genuflect upon entering and prior to departing our churches? Do we genuflect in procession to receive the living God? Do we struggle against the temptation to turn our churches into auditoriums, rehearsal halls, or theaters? Do we call attention to ourselves in needless conversation?

We love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength in our reverential love for Jesus Christ our Eucharistic Lord with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (Jn 14:9) Like Christ, we too must express the "deepest respect" for God. We worship the true temple, the Lamb of God, in the Lord's Body and Blood. Destroyed and risen again in three days, Christ himself present in the most august sacrament of the Eucharist makes a mere church building the holiest place on earth.

Preserve in church a reverent silence for true prayer and authentic worship. Spend an hour today in the saving presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. Volunteer for an hour per week if you have the privilege of perpetual adoration in your community. Start a weekly period of adoration in your parish. "So, could you not watch with me one hour?" (Mt 26: 40)

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
Laetare Sunday

2 Chronicles 36: 14-17,19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"The Church condemned me."

"I don't go to Mass anymore because Father kicked me out of the Church."

"I was excommunicated."

In earlier days the Church used a rite of excommunication to teach that by our sins we do separate ourselves from Christ and his Church, and to call us back from our errors. Public sinners go a step further in scandalizing others by their actions and so in fidelity to the Gospel are barred from Communion and public celebration of the liturgies of the Church. Holy Mother Church no longer makes use of such a ritual, but the old language is still in vogue for some.

By her actions the Church proclaims today the truth that she never really condemned anyone, as now in Christ "there is no condemnation". It is in truth we who condemn ourselves by our own sins, and on the final day if we have rejected grace God, rather than condemning us, will simply respect our choice to be apart from him. We, by our own faults, sever our personal union with Christ and the Church, are "excommunicated" - no longer able to receive Communion until first confessing our sins through the means entrusted by Christ to the Apostles in the Sacrament of Penance.

"Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. (Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3:19; Mt 3:7-12) Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. (Cf. Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5) Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned. (Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42) Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. (Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5) On the last day Jesus will say : 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' (Mt 25:40) " (CCC 678)

Along with our Lenten prayer, fast and abstinence we practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy according the Lord's counsel in the Beatitudes. He has made clear that our relationship with him is reflected in the way we treat the "least of these little ones."

Love of our neighbor is an indispensable duty of the Christian life. By sin we reject the communion of the Church as well as her divine Head. For this reason we confess our sins to the priest and he, for the Church, welcomes us back as living members of the Lord's Body of believers.

"Christ is the Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He 'acquired' this rite by his cross. The Father has given 'all judgment to the Son.' (Jn 5:22; cf. 5:27; Mt 25:31; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1) Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. (Cf. Jn 3:17; 5:26) By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love. (Cf. n 3:18; 12:48; Mt 12:32; 1Cor 3:12-15; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31)" (CCC 679)

The Church would not truly express the saving love of Christ unless, faithful to his teaching and commandments, she warned us of the reality of our sins. So she teaches that sin is capable of separating us from God forever, yet completely forgiven as soon as we will humbly approach the Lord remembering: "whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them, whose sins you hold bound they are held bound."

Observe the Church's precept to confess sins at least once a year during the Lenten season.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(Publish with permission.)

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

Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus Christ gives greatest glory to the Father precisely in the shattering degradation and utmost ignominy of the Cross. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." (Jn 12,23) Dying Jesus destroys our death and rising he restores our life, but the work must now be completed for each of us daily.

You and I share in Christ's glorious completion of the Father's will when we too accept the Cross and the Passion heroically and generously in our lives: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12, 24) It appears at first as though Christ merely reminds us that we too must die as he will, and prepares us to accept it. But listen to what he says next: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." This dying, then, is one which bears fruit by detachment from this world for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. A daily dying to the self by overcoming a million petty urges and desires. A generous acceptance of the duties of marriage and family life with cheerfulness. A configuring to the truth by rejection of sin and regular Confession.

A husband meets his greatest challenge to die to self and live for Christ as he devotedly cares for his terminally ill wife unto the end, never counting the cost in dollars or days. He has chosen Christ and "hated" his own life in this world so that he can live forever. A wife attends to her paraplegic husband in a heroic living of her marriage vows, choosing Christ and his life, and "hating" her life in this world because she looks forward with anticipation to the day when both she and her husband will know no more pain, suffering, labor or temptation.

A parent unconditionally loves his child even if it is affected by Down's syndrome, open to the Godly beauty and goodness that child has brought into the world. He "hates" his life in this world and sees a foretaste of heaven in the innocence of his child. He desires to share forever in the glory of God's love and understands that he must reject the very easy path of selfishness. The infertile couple reject the temptation to manipulate the process of life-giving through unnatural methods of conception and open themselves to the joys of adoption. They truly "hate" their lives in this world in reverence for God and the desire to do his will, choosing salvation as their greatest hope over the other good things this life offers.

We are not alone in our temptation to reject the crosses by which we are born into life if we will only bear them with patience and courage. Our sharing in baptism is the gift of grace so that we can desire a share in Christ's redemptive passion as the focus and purpose of our lives.

"The desire to embrace his Father's plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus' whole life, (Cf. Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23) for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, 'And what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour"? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.' (Jn 12:27) And again, 'Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?' (Jn 18:11) From the cross, just before 'It is finished,' he said, 'I thirst.' (Jn 19:30; 19:28) " (CCC 607)

In our prayer let us truly thirst for the Father's will in and with Jesus our Lord as we utter the words "Thy will be done."

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(Publish with permission.)