Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

Advent, Year C

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First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33. 14-16; Psalm 25. 4-5, 8-10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3. 12-4. 2; Luke 21. 25-28, 34-36

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, in recent public comments, made the humorous observation that “one knows it’s time for Halloween when the Christmas decorations come out” in the stores.  This sad commentary on the power of merchandising over the proper and meaningful celebration of the seasons of life and the mysteries of our Faith is all too true.  We are reminded of this every year as we observe once again the clash of colors between Advent violet in our churches and Christmas red splashed liberally beyond the doors of our places of worship.  And, again, the temptation arises for some to complain about the situation or to see this phenomenon as another in a growing list of reasons to turn away from the world.

Advent, the season of preparation in the Church, provides a dramatic counterpoint over against a world that ends the celebration of the Savior’s birth precisely on the day it should begin, having begun it months prematurely.  Such superficial “cheer” spurs us all the more to love and embrace the yet unredeemed world that stills lacks, and waits unknowingly, for what it most truly needs.

Advent, with its very name, “the coming”, is a yearly season of the Church’s life that invites us to explore once again the important virtue of patience accompanied by prayer.  For the faithful there is not a simple “waiting” but rather an active anticipation by prayer, penance and almsgiving.  The Lord engages with the world through His Body to work out the salvation of all creation.   The Holy Spirit, our companion on the way of faith, is the Divine person who “inspires” us to return again and again to the truth that salvation is not something for which we passively wait in this world, but a reality that has begun already for us in the Church.

The Holy Spirit, the holy “animator”, or soul of, and divine Indweller  of Jesus’ Body the Church, guarantees for us that we live now already the very life and mysteries of the Savior.  This takes place liturgically, in the living proclamation of the Word in our liturgy.

“For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the "today" of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church's liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.” (CCC 1095)

The Word of God is “living and active” and nowhere more so than when it is proclaimed in the most “living” way at holy Mass.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church makes real and effective, once again, the historical events of salvation history.  The Advent mysteries of the Lord’s incarnation are thus re-presented so that we can take a living and active part in them.  The preparation for His coming with this season no less:

“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’" (CCC 524)

How important for us is His coming?  No less important for us then the preparation for the “advent” of so great a divine Savior.  It is the reasonableness of this truth that is our privilege to live and teach the world in Advent.  We are thus as a leaven so that all of society and every human person may “rise” with the Bread of Life who really and truly became present among us and ever comes among us again the His Eucharist as the Risen One.  He became incarnate to become Sacrifice.  He is present among us to save us.

Our Advent violet is a calling to joy for the world, for one must truly prepare for what one hopes to truly receive.  The Church lives as a sign of hope in this Advent season once again in the midst of a world in need of redemption.  Let us go forth to celebrate the real joy that Advent brings, the authentic coming of the Lord and Savior, as one who will live in our hearts and minds by grace upon His coming at Christmas.  If we would do that, we must prepare the way.  "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths!"

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

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

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Second Sunday of Advent
Baruch 5, 1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1, 4- 6. 8-11; St. Luke 3, 1-6

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

John the Baptist is the figure of Advent, this season of the coming of the Lord, for he prepares the path of the Redeemer so that Isaiah's prophecy may be fulfilled:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Isaiah 40. 3-5)

John the Baptist is "more than a prophet." (Lk 7:26) In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. (Cf. Mt 11. 13-14) He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the "voice" of the Consoler who is coming. (Jn 1. 23; cf. Isa 40. 1-3) As the Spirit of truth will also do, John "came to bear witness to the light." (Jn 1. 7; cf. Jn 15. 26; 5. 35) In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. (Cf. 1 Pet 1. 10-12) "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." (Jn 1. 33-36) (CCC 719)

"All flesh shall see the salvation of God" because God will come in the flesh. Why did the Word become flesh? With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." (CCC 456)

The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciliating us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world," and "he was revealed to take away sins": (1 Jn 4. 10; 4. 14; 3. 5)

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech. 15: PG 45, 48B.) (CCC 457)

The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love (CCC 458) to be our model of holiness (CCC 459) and to make us "partakers of the divine nature" (CCC 460)

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

(See also paragraphs 535, 719, 720, 1224 in the CCC.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

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Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3, 14-18; Isaiah 12, 2-3. 4. 5-6; Philippians 4, 4-7; St. Luke 3, 10-18

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice."

What kind of rejoicing can come from hearing St. John's description of the coming of the Messiah? "...he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."(Jn 3: 16-17) And yet, St. Luke tells us we are to welcome this news as good: "So with other exhortations, he preached good news to the people." (Jn 3: 18) John's preaching about the judgment, that some souls might be lost, can hardly be considered "good news"; unless it is the truth.

The truth, however difficult though it may be for us to hear, is always good news. St. John lays bare the truth about the sins of the people, the tax collectors and the soldiers, instructing them as to how to correct their lives. This is good news, though painful to hear, for it will bring repentance, conversion and healing. Rejoicing will follow, for those who amend their lives enjoy God's mercy unto everlasting life. It is the truth which is the "Good News".

Today on Gaudete, or "rejoice", Sunday we remember that though our lives are marked by waiting and watching, by penance and prayer, we are yet people of joy. Our joy is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit, given to us in fullest measure, that we may love God. "The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Joy is not possible unless one receives the Spirit's gift of divine charity.

The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony"; (Col 3:14) it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love. (CCC 1827)

We rejoice because we are secure in the knowledge of the love of God who has truly revealed himself as our Father through the gift of his only-begotten Son at Bethlehem.
St. John foretells the coming of the Incarnate God who is Judge and Lord. The people, stricken with fear at St. John's message, ask him, "What are we to do?" He instructs them to live in charity: give a coat to him who has none, share your food, act with justice. These are the fruits of the virtue of charity.

The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion. (CCC 1829) The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.' (Gal 5:22-23) (CCC 1832)

Heaven, the union of all the saints and holy angels with the Triune God, is the only place of unending and complete joy. Hope of heaven, together with faith and charity, are the virtues by which the Holy Spirit enables us to rejoice with authentic joy flowing from and leading toward the Trinity.

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. (Cf. Rom 8: 28-30; Mt 7:21) In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" (Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1541.) and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." (1 Tim 2:4) She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven. (CCC 1821)

The virtue of hope flows from true charity, bringing rejoicing, enabling us to begin to anticipate, here on earth, the love of heaven. The life of charity enables us to look toward the second coming with joy. St. Teresa of Avila teaches Christian joy made possible through hope in God's mercy for eternal and unending joy:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (CCC 1821)

Let's pray for each other until, next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 535, 696, 2447 in the CCC.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Micah 5: 1-4a; Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16,.18-19; Hebrews 10: 5-10; St. Luke 1. 39-45

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our Advent meditations devolve in great part around our Lady, she who all generations have called "blessed," she who does not "know man" because of her vow of perpetual virginity, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why, many today ask, does she take such a great role in the life of the Church? Should not Christ alone, "in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge", suffice?

The Church honors Mary in obedience to her Lord Jesus Christ. Christ can truly be Lord only for those who keep all of his commands, who proclaim all of his Gospel in all of its parts. Our Lord has entrusted his Body, the Church, to Mary as Mother when from the Cross, with his dying words he said, "Behold your Mother."

By God's will and plan our Lady fulfilled a unique and irreplaceable role in our salvation, all beginning with the words of the Gospel: "Fiat voluntas tua, thy will be done". For Our Lady's perfect obedience to the Father she is the first and most perfect disciple.
Elizabeth is the first to proclaim with authentic devotion and love our Lady's greatest title, "mother of my Lord". Mary is Mother of God.

Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus," Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord." (Lk 1:43; Jn 2:1; 19:25; cf. Mt 13:55.) In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos). (Council of Ephesus (431); DS 251.) (CCC 495)

Saint Bede comments that Elizabeth blesses Mary using the same words as the archangel "to show that she should be honoured by angels and by men and why she should indeed be revered above all other women" (In Lucae Evangelium expositio, in loc.)
Her divine Motherhood gives our Lady an intimate and irreplaceable role in our spiritual lives and our salvation. As we pray the scriptural Hail Mary we proclaim again these divine greetings, "rejoicing with Mary at her dignity as Mother of God and praising the Lord, thanking him for having given us Jesus Christ through Mary" (Pope St. Pius X, Catechism of Christian Doctrine, 333).
"With her generous 'fiat' (Mary) became through the working of the Spirit the Mother of God, but also the mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the one Mediator, she became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God." (Pope Paul VI, Marialis cultus, 6.)

This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death; first when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the Precursor leaps with joy in the womb of his mother...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 keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 57f).

Let's pray for each other until, next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 148, 448, 495, 523, 717, 2676, 2677 in the CCC.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

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