Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

LENT, Year C

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, a renewal of baptismal grace and vocation.

Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk 1:15) In the Church's preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism (Cf. Acts 2:38) that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. (CCC 1427)

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."

Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and nortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance. (CCC 1430)

Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who "clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." (Lumen Gentium 8, 3)This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. (Ps 51:17; cf. Jn 6:44; 12:32; 1 Jn 4:10) (CCC 1428)

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

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First Sunday

Deuteronomy 26, 4-10; Psalm 91; Romans 10, 8-13; St. Luke 4, 1-13

Why do we undertake this forty day period of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent? Why do we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

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 538)

We recollect and meditate, by these forty days of fast, abstinence and prayer, upon Christ's victory over temptation. We grow in our faith that, by the graces of the sacramental life, our intellect and will is strengthened so that we may keep God's commandments in love for Him as Christ first did.

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)

In Christ's temptations are summed up every temptation which we might face. "Scripture would not have said", according to St. Thomas Aquinas, "that once all the temptation ended the devil departed from him, unless the matter of all sins were included in the three temptations already related. For the causes of temptation are the causes of desires -- namely, lust of the flesh, hope of glory, eagerness for power" (Summa theologiae, III, q. 41, a. 4 ad 4).

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 16:21-23) 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)

St. Ambrose teaches that Christ battled temptation in his human nature to show us how, by the grace of his divine nature, our human nature is strengthened for victory in the same battle. "He did not act as God, bringing his power into play: if he had done so, how could we have availed of his example?; rather, as man he made use of the resources which he has in common with us" (St. Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.)
Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(See also nos. 538, 695, 2096, 2119, 2855 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) (Publish with permission.)

Second Sunday

Genesis 15, 5-12. 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3, 17-4, 1; St. Luke 9, 28-36

The Lord "took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white." (Lk 9. 28-29) Why does the Lord reveal his glory to the Apostles in this way?

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that this grace was given to strengthen the Apostles for the Cross to come by giving them a glimpse of the Resurrection which would be purchased only by the blood shed upon the Cross. "For a person to go straight along the road, he must have some knowledge of the end--just as an archer will not shoot an arrow straight unless he first sees the target....This is particularly necessary if the road is hard and rough, the going heavy, and the end delightful" (Summa theologiae, III, q. 45, a. 1).

We savor in the Lord's Transfiguration a foretaste of the heavenly glory which awaits the faithful. Our bodies will share in his brightness, "by which the bodies of the saints shall shine like the sun, according to the words of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: 'The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (Mt 13:43). To remove the possibility of doubt on the subject, he exemplifies this in his Transfiguration. This quality the Apostle sometimes calls glory, sometimes brightness: 'He will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body' (Phil 3:21); and again, 'It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory' (1 Cor 15:43). Of this glory the Israelites beheld some image in the desert, when the face of Moses, after he had enjoyed the presence and conversation of God, shone with such lustre that they could not look on it (Ex 34:29; 2 Cor 3:7). This brightness is a sort of radiance reflected on the body from the supreme happiness of the soul. It is a participation in that bliss which the soul enjoys....This quality is not common to all in the same degree. All the bodies of the saints will be equally impassible; but the brightness of all will not be the same for, according to the Apostle, 'There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead' (1 Cor 15:4f)" (Catechism of the Council of Trent, I, 12, 13).

The Father's command "Listen to him!" means that in Christ we find the fullest revelation of the Father's glory figured forth in the glorious Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

Christ's whole earthly life -- his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking --is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," and the Father can say: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" (Jn 14:9; Lk 9:35; cf. Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7 ["my beloved Son"] ). (CCC 516)

There is no other name, or sign, given under heaven by which we may be saved.

"Therefore," according to Saint John of the Cross, "if any now should question God or desire a vision or revelation, not only would he be acting foolishly but he would be committing an offence against God, by not fixing his gaze on Christ with no desire for any new thing. For God could reply to him in this way: 'If I have spoken all things to you in my Word, which is my Son, and I have no other word, what answer can I give you now, or what can I reveal to you that is greater than this? Fix your eyes on him alone, for in him I have spoken and revealed to you all things, and in him you will find even more than what you ask for and desire....Hear him, for I have no more faith to reveal, nor have I any more things to declare' " (Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chap. 22, 5).

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

(See also nos. 516, 554, 556, 659, 697, 1151, 2583, 2600 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

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Third Sunday of Lent: "if you do not repent, you will all perish"

Exodus 3, 1-8. 13-15; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 10, 1-6. 10-12; St. Luke 13, 1-9
The "rubbernecking syndrome", wherein we fall into a spell of fascination upon becoming aware of the misfortunes of others in the midst of disaster, can result in a peril of a different kind. We can forget that there is a fate far worse than perishing through earthquake fire and flood: to turn away from a loving and merciful God through sin.

The people in today's Gospel experienced something akin to "rubbernecking" when, as we do when becoming aware of an accident while driving on the highway, we forget the deadly peril of driving our own vehicle in a state of distraction. A wall had fallen on laborers in Siloam and some assumed God had punished them for sinning more than others had: " you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Lk 13. 4-5) The truth is that "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God"; the worst effect of sin is not perceptible in this world as is the result of a construction accident or religious persecution. The fate worst of all is the loss of eternal life and love with God. Anyone can fall into this danger.

The Lord "tells us that, without Holy Baptism, no one will enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn 3:5); and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish (Lk 13:3). This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified" (St. John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Ash Wednesday).

Repentance in the heart leads to confession with the lips. The Lord commands us to mourn for our sins and, with contrition, to embrace a firm amendment to avoid the near occasions of sin in the future. This contrition is not something added to the Gospel as an option but is of necessity if we are to love God and receive the gift of salvation. The disposition of contrition is required of us, therefore, when receiving the sacramental gift of divine forgiveness in Confession.

Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again." (CCC 1451)
When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible. (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676.) (CCC 1453)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick (See also nos. 1453, 1454 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Fourth Sunday
Laetare Sunday

Joshua 5,9. 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5, 17-21; St. Luke 15, 1-3. 11-32

When our brothers and sisters do not share our faith in the Church and are led by scandals to disbelieve in her, they repeat the sin committed by those who professed scandal at the Lord himself, for he today associates with tax collectors and prostitutes, and all sinners, in his body, the Church.

Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them. (Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6) He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. (Cf. Lk 15: 1-2, 22-32) But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mk 2:7) By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God's equal or is speaking the truth, and his person really does make present and reveal God's name. (Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6, 26.) (CCC 589)

Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "he who is not with me is against me"; and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah, ... greater than Solomon," something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord, (Cf. Mt 12:6, 30, 36, 37, 41-42.) and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM"; and even "I and the Father are one." (Jn 8:58; 10:30.)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 545, 589, 1423, 1439, 1468, 1700, 2795, 2839 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

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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

Isaiah 43, 16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3, 8-14; St. John 8, 1-11

"Go, and do not sin again." (Jn 8:11.)

How can we today hear these words just as the woman caught in adultery did, so that we may walk away from the Lord cleansed, renewed, made whole again after the tragedy and brokenness of sin? Through the sacraments of healing.

The forgiveness of the Lord is infinite and without conditions. The healing power of the mercy of God, fully given in Christ, can be ours definitively and completely whenever we approach the Lord in the sacrament of Confession and, when sick in body, also through the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, (Cf. Mk 2:1-12) has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacrmanets of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. (CCC 1421)

"Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion." (LG 11 art. 2) (CCC 1422)

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace." (OP 46: formula of absolution.) It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner te life of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." (2 Cor 5:20) He who lives by God's mercfiul love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother." (Mt 5:24) (CCC 1424)

If Baptism is clearly recorded in the Gospels as the gift of God's mercy and the washing away of all our sins. why another sacrament in order to have the forgiveness of God?

"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:11) One must appreciate the magnitude of the gift God has given us in the sacraments of Christian initiation in order to grasp the degree to which sin is excluded for him who has "put on Christ." (Gal 3:27) But the apostle John also says: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 Jn 1:8) And the Lord himself taught us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," (Cf. Lk 11:4; Mt 6:12) linking our forgiveness of one another's offenses to the forgiveness of our sins that God will grant us. (CCC 1425)
Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us "holy and without blemish," just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is "holy and without blemish." (Eph 1:4; 5:27) Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. (Cf. Council of Trent (1546): DS 1515.) This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us. (Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545; LG 40.)(CCC 1426)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also no. 583 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

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