Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

ORDINARY TIME, Sundays 2-11, Year C
1998, 2001, 2004

Select liturgy here

SUNDAYS 8 - 11



Isaiah 62: 1-5; Psalm 96, 1-3, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11; St. John 2: 1-11

Our Lady has interceded for those who approach her divine Son from the very beginning of his public life and ministry.

Mary was invited to a wedding at Cana, and "Jesus also was invited to the marriage with his disciples". Our Lady informs Jesus "they have no more wine". Though he hesitates, saying "My hour has not yet come", he yet accedes to her wishes and the needs of the wedding guests and changes water into wine upon our Lady's instruction to the servants: "Do whatever he tells you." We also are invited by our Lady to render obedience to her Son: "in that all Christian holiness consists: for perfect holiness is obeying Christ in all things". (St. Thomas Aquinas, Comm. on St. John, in loc.).

In the public life of Jesus Mary appears prominently; at the very beginning when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of the miracles of Jesus the Messiah (cf. John 2: 1-11). In the course of her Son's preaching she received the words whereby, in extolling a kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mk 3:35; Lk 11:27-28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Lk 2:19; 51). Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood (cf. Jn 19:25), in line with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his passion, with his sacrifice, associating herself in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to his disciple, with these words: 'Woman, behold thy son' (Jn 19: 26-27)" (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 58).

"At Cana, Mary appears once more as the Virgin in prayer: when she tactfully told her Son of a temporal need, she also obtained an effect of grace, namely, that Jesus, in working the first of his 'signs', confirmed his disciples' faith in him." (Paul VI, Marialis cultus, 18).

Why are Mary's prayers so effective with God? The prayers of the saints are prayers of servants, whereas Mary's are a Mother's prayer, whence flows their efficacy and their authority; and since Jesus has immense love for his Mother, she cannot pray without being listened to...To understand Mary's great goodness, let us remember what the Gospel says...There was a shortage of wine, which naturally worried the married couple. No one asks the Blessed Virgin to intervene and request her Son to come to the rescue of the couple...; it stirs her to act as intercessor and ask her Son for the miracle, even though no one asks her to...If our Lady acted like this without being asked, what would she not have done if they actually asked her to intervene?" (St. Alphonsus Mary Ligouri, Sunday Sermons, 48).

By God's design Mary is uniquely a Mediatrix for us, our Mother in the order of grace (CCC 967-970) just as she was for the wedding guests at Cana. No other creature shares in the privileges she enjoys as cooperator in the work of her Son.

"This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation...Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 62) (CCC 969)

Blessed Lady, intercede for us that we may do whatever the Lord tells us and so may, like the wedding guests at Cana, see his glory and believe in Him.

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 486, 495, 1335, 1613, and 2618 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) (Publish with permission.)


Nehemiah 8, 2-4, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19,; 1 Corinthians 12, 12-30; St. Luke 1, 1-4; 4, 14-21

Isaiah the prophet proclaimed the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the "anointed" one. The Lord knows who he is, not simply because as a good Jew he reads Isaiah, but with every fiber of his divine Personhood: he is the God-man, the divine Messiah foretold and exalted by the holy prophets. The Lord reads the words of Isaiah to the assembly in the synagogue with the purpose of declaring the truth of his divinity to the whole world: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Lk 4: 21)

The Messiah's characteristics are revealed above all in the "Servant songs." (Cf. Isa 42: 1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49: 1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52: 13- 53: 12.) These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave." (Phil 2:7) Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life. (CCC 713)

This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah: (Isa 61: 1-2; cf. Lk 4: 18-19)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

(CCC 714)

The anointing by which Christ brings "good tidings", binds up the "brokenhearted", and frees those imprisoned is carried out in our midst, at this moment, only in the Holy Spirit, poured out upon us by the Lord-Messiah according to the heavenly Father's loving plan for our redemption. Only in that Spirit of love can we call out to Christ as Lord in faith. Only in that Spirit do we receive and give authentic love.

The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of "love and fidelity." (Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36: 25-28; 37: 1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3: 1-5.) St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. (Cf. Acts 2: 17-21) According to these promises, at the "end time" the Lord's Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. (CCC 715)

We live out our love for the Lord when we confidently declare that he is Lord and God to all we meet. Others will know we love them if we declare the divinity of the Savior, he who alone can forgive our sins, heal us and raise us up to holiness and joy.

Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 436, 544, 695, 714, 1168, 1286, 2443 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

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Jeremiah 1. 4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71. 1-6, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:31--13:13; St. Luke 4. 21-30

In the town of Nazareth, where so many knew the Lord well, saw him grow, visited his home, a sin had taken root; familiarity had bred a prideful sense of entitlement. Those who knew the Lord well, "Is not this Joseph's son?" (Lk 4, 22) assumed that he would grant them the signs and miracles of which they had heard so much in other cities and towns. This pride left them receptive to the Lord and his teaching at a merely superficial level, and their pleasure and approval quickly turned to murderous hatred when he reproved them for their sin, "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong." (Lk 4, 28-29) Their pride, a sin against love, had grown into a monstrous hatred.

One can sin against God's love in various ways:
--hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and afflicts punishments.
(CCC 2094)

In their hatred for Christ, the Nazarenes committed grave sin. In their overweening pride, hatred became a deliberate attack against Jesus, for they intended to kill him.

Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Mt 5: 44-45)(CCC 2303)

The Lord majestically frees himself from their grasp, "But passing through the midst of them he went away." (Lk 4, 30) Christ is the peacemaker, and our model as bearers of peace. We must pray for peace and, through active charity, extend the gift of peace and forgiveness to all. Some, in pursuing Christian perfection, may even choose to renounce violent resistance and, instead "make use of those means of defense available to the weakest" (CCC 2306) when confronting their enemies. Christ embraced solidarity with the weakest, for he merely fled from his persecutors, rather than summoning his manly or divine strength in his own defense.

Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death. (Cf. GS 78, 5.) (CCC 2306)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

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FIFTH Sunday

Isaiah 6. 1-2a,3-8; Psalm 138. 1-5, 7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; St. Luke 5. 1-11

Our lives in Christ depend upon an unlimited trust in the Lord, following his words with energy and hope even when his will for us leads into uncharted waters, when he commands that we "put out into the deep", even those well-plumbed depths which have in the past yielded up for us only empty nets. Simon Peter responded with weariness, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing", when our Lord commanded him "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." (Lk 5, 4-5) He had good reason to believe that after all of his valiant efforts he would come up empty again.

You and I, too, have tried again and again to keep the Lord's commands, and sometimes have failed. We also respond sometimes with weariness when he reminds us to keep all the things that he has commanded. We too wish sometimes to persuade him to release us from the burdens of commitment, of thankless labor, of frightening and overwhelming situations. Peter, though wearied with trying, says a remarkable thing for, even after complaining hesitation, he responds with the divine power of faith: "But at your word I will let down the nets." (Lk 5, 5) He responds in obedience and trust, though he had no earthly reason to believe his efforts would be crowned with success.
Peter's faith and trust is rewarded with the miraculous draught of fishes. In awe at his encounter with the mysterious presence of the living God, he falls down in worship before Jesus, exclaiming, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Lk 5, 8) He is unworthy before the thrice-holy God perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ.

Faced with God's fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God's holiness. (Cf. Ex 3:5-6) Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: "Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips." (Isa 6:5) Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Lk 5:8) But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: "I will not execute my fierce anger...for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst." (Hos 11:9) The apostle John says likewise: "We shall reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." (1 Jn 3: 19-20) (CCC 208)

Though we never refuse the grace of Confession and absolution when conscious of serious sin, we are yet aware that we must ever depend upon regular reception of the Lord's Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our venial sins. Face to face with the glorious presence of our divine Lord in the Eucharist, we too are in awe before his majesty, and can approach him only with these words: "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum. Sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea. O Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." (Response to the "Ecce, Agnus Dei", Liturgy of the Mass of the Roman Rite.)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
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SIXTH Sunday

Jeremiah 17. 5-8; Psalm 1. 1-4, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; St. Luke 6. 17, 20-26

Some refuse to believe in God, saying that the evil in the world, including the physical evils of hunger and thirst, would not be permitted by a good God, or at least would be brought to an end by Him. The mystery of evil, and in particular the senseless suffering of the poor, the rejected, the excluded, and the persecuted, must be understood within the whole context of God's plan, which is for our happiness, but an eternal unending joy which can never be taken away, unlike the things of this world.

The happiness of the new heavens and the new earth which God will reveal at the end of the world can be obtained by all through Jesus Christ our Lord. No man or woman is excluded from the redeeming embrace of God's love. For this reason the Christian message is truly good news for all, including the poor and downtrodden of the world. But this truth does not dispense anyone, and in particular Christians, from the demands of charity and justice for the relief and care of the poor. We are commanded not simply to tolerate or accommodate the poor, not simply to feed and clothe them; we are commanded to love them as we love ourselves.

"The Church's love for the part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. (CA 57; cf. Lk 6: 20-22, Mt 8: 20; Mk 12:41-44) Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to "be able to give to those in need." (Eph 4:28) It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty. (Cf CA 57) (CCC 2444)

Though hunger, thirst, nakedness and homelessness are terrible evils and always intolerable attacks against human life, it is the lack of love manifested by cultural and religious poverty, as Mother Teresa taught, that is the greatest poverty today: "It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." A profound poverty of the heart underlies the many attacks against innocent, defenseless human life today in abortion, partial-birth infanticide and contraception.
The greatest poverty afflicting the human race today is the culture of death which, through abortion and abortifacient contraception, denies a child the right to live, laugh and love. Those who promote the culture of death suffer a most insidious poverty, a silent killer, which eclipses that love for even the smallest and weakest human persons without which no one can enter into eternal joy.
Defenders of human life look forward joyfully, on the other hand, to the promise of the Lord for those who feed, clothe, shelter and otherwise defend the lives of the "least of these little ones": "Enter into the joy of your Lord. Enter into the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(See also nos. 2546, 2547 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
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1 Samuel 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23; Psalm 103. 1-4,8,10,12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; St. Luke 6. 27-38

Many express confusion about reconciling the Lord's counsel to "turn the other cheek." with bearing arms in self-defense. "But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well." (Lk 6, 27-29)

Must we forswear all self-defense? Is it wrong for a Christian to choose the military profession? Can we bear arms in our defense?

The first rule for a Christian is charity, including love for enemies. "In loving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of his Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to himself the human race, which previously was most unfriendly and hostile to him' (Catechism of the Council of Trent, IV, 14, 19)

We must be other Christs by our duty to pray for our persecutors, to bless and not curse them. Christ taught this law when, even from the Cross with his dying breath, he prayed to the Father for his enemies: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Lk 23:34)

Forgiveness and prayer for our enemies does not, however, forbid us from the defense of innocent human life, in particular that of the weakest and most defenseless among us.

The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor...The one is intended, the other is not." (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64,7, corp. art.) (CCC 2263)

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful....Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's. (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64,7, corp. art.) (CCC 2264)

Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility. (CCC 2265)

For those who so choose, who believe that the Lord calls them to a more perfect way of life in this world which more closely mirrors the peace of the kingdom of heaven, there is the counsel of perfection to practice total non-violence after the Lord's own example in his Passion and death.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, taught, "Sacred Scripture needs to be understood in the light of the example of Christ and the saints. Christ did not offer the other cheek to be struck in the house of Annas (Jn 18:22ff), nor did St. Paul when, as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, he was beaten in Phillippi (Acts 16:22f). Therefore, we should not take it that Christ literally meant that you should offer the other cheek to someone to hit you; what he was referring to was your interior disposition; that is, if necessary we should be ready not to be intolerant of anyone who hurts us: and we should be ready to put up with this kind of treatment, or worse than that. That was how the Lord acted when he surrendered his body to death" (Commentary on St. John, 18, 37).

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(See also nos. 1458, 1669, 1789, 1970, 2842 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
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SUNDAYS 8 - 11

Sirach 27:4-7; Psalms 92:2-3,13-14,15-16;1 Corinthians 15:54-58; St. Luke 6:39-45.

With increasing frequency today we hear persons in both public and private life, and, scandalously in the Church as well, justifying their behavior by saying, "Someone else would have done the same thing in my position." An expediency to justify slander, calumny, and many other sinful forms of behavior has taken the place of the only true standard by which all things are judged, the light of Christ who as Lord finds his Lordship expressed in this world in the thoughts, words and actions of true Christians.

Christ's disciples have "put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:24.) By "putting away falsehood," they are to "put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander." (Eph 4:25; 1 Pet 2:1) (CCC 2475)

Martyrs such as St. Thomas More, whose head was never turned by the great favor of the king and the admiration of thousands, lost that head precisely because he took as his model not the behavior of others but the truth incarnate in the teachings and example of Christ his Lord. When about 95% of the priests and clergy betrayed Christ by denying His Vicar on earth, Thomas refused to point to their behavior as justification for doing the same. "I am the king's good servant, but God's first." Thus the kingship of Christ in this world found its true expression in the life and death of St. Thomas and he was crowned with heavenly glory.

To deny the pope's headship of the Church on earth under pressure from his king and after the example of his neighbors, Thomas More would have denied his conscience enlightened by truth. Such offenses against the truth take many forms; among these are detraction as condemned by Christ in today's gospel.

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. (Cf CIC, can 220.) He becomes guilty:
-of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know htem; (Cf Sir 21:28.)
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them. (CCC 2477)

False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness. (Cf. Prov 19:9.) When it is under oath, it is perjury. Acts such as these contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused. (Cf. Prov 18:5.) They gravely compromise the exercise of justice and the fairness of judicial decisions. (CCC 2476.)

If we are more conscious of the "log" in our own eye, we will have a healthy sense of our own need for Christ's mercy and so will more readily accept the same needs of our families and neighbors and thus can more easily shun temptations to make rash judgments, or commit the sins of detraction or calumny.

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words and deeds in a favorable way:

Every Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 22.)

(CCC 2478.)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
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NINTH Sunday

TENTH Sunday

1 Kings 17, 17-24; Psalm 30, 2.4.5-; Galatians 1, 11-19; Gospel: St. Luke 7. 11-17

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Gospels we meet Christ the physician. Do we seek him as physician of our bodies only? Has he become for us a mere earthly Messiah?

While the Church continues Christ's ministry to the sick in many forms, such as hospitals and hospices for the dying, these works never take first place ahead of the ministry of Christ to forgive. Such is the reason that in the sacrament of anointing of the sick, the priest offers first the opportunity for confession to the ill or dying.

Just as he fled from those who sought to carry him off to make him king, so too, those who seek Christ in prayer for succor only from their earthly sufferings miss his true coming as Yeshua, "he who saves his people from their sins". Our greatest disease and suffering is death, brought into the world by sin. Do we seek him in prayer first for forgiveness? Do we humbly face our sins and seek contrition and confession? This is first and greatest meaning of "go and sin no more, your faith has healed you."

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

(See also CCC 994)

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