Meeting Christ in the Liturgy Library

Advent, Year B

Select liturgy here

First Sunday

Second Sunday

Third Sunday

Fourth Sunday

First Sunday

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

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Second Sunday

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": (Mark 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." (Mark 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 as we answer the call of John the Baptist to "Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path." 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)
Many movies and television shows treat the subject of faith and the supernatural. Some books 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 entertainment denigrates the authentic Christian faith and attacks the Church. 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.
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 or undermine 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? What of a movie that denies the need for faith, that attacks Christ's Body, the Church, or commits sacrilege against the Sacrifice of the Mass? 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.
The first and ordinary means of growing in the Faith is our encounter with Christ in Word and sacrament. In the liturgy, the source and summit of our Christian life, we have the highest source of the upbuilding of the kingdom within us and within the communio of our Catholic Church.
Active participation in the Mass helps us to avoid experiencing it as an empty ritual. 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 or kneeling to receive the Body of Christ.
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
Isaiah 61, 1-2,.10-11; Luke 1:46-54;
1 Thes 5, 16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28



"Gaudete in Domino semper. Iterum dico, gaudete!" Int., Dom. III

"John the Baptist is 'more than a prophet.' In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the 'voice' of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John 'came to bear witness to the light.' In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.' " (CCC 719)

" 'Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church.' These words open the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. By choosing this starting point, the Council demonstrates that the article of faith about the Church depends entirely on the articles concerning Christ Jesus. The Church has no other light than Christ's; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun." (CCC 748)


A mere voice announces the imminent appearance of the Word Himself.


The last hours of darkness give way to the light of dawn.


The old gives way to the new; the prophet prepares the way for the One prophesied.


The sign of the water of repentance is fulfilled in the reality of the fires of love in the grace of the Holy Spirit.


God, our Joy, will be truly born and truly live among us.  Rejoice!

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
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.)