Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

Ordinary Time, Sundays 23-33, Year A

Select liturgy here

SUNDAYS 22 - 24

SUNDAYS 25 - 27

SUNDAYS 28 - 31

SUNDAYS 22 - 24

Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16: 21-27

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Get out of my sight, you Satan! You are not judging by God' standards but by man's!"
In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, chapter 16, verses twenty-one to twenty-seven, our Lord words seem to be spoken in anger, and perhaps they are. They appear to be words of condemnation, for anyone who is the equal of Satan is surely to be considered damned as is Satan, eternally separated from God.

Christ faced many temptations along the road to Calvary and the fulfillment of the Father's perfect will. Among these, the encounter with Satan in the desert. And not only there, also in those who align themselves with Satan by denying Christ's role as Savior from sin. Avoiding the pain and suffering of the passion and death would be just such a denial of His true mission as Redeemer. Hence Christ's words which seem to identify Peter with the Devil.
"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. (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 weakness, 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)
Authentic faith enables us to desire above all to see ourselves honestly, in the way that God sees us, to repent of our sins and then to live according to our need for God. "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Total dedication to Christ and to His Gospel is rewarded with the total gift of God's love and embrace in the heavenly kingdom. Heaven begins with Christian commitment here and now, without delay or excuses. -Fr. Cusick

Twenty-third Sunday
Ezekiel 33, 7-9; Psalm 95; Romans 13, 8-10;
Matthew 18, 15-20

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We do indeed "meet Christ in the liturgy". Learning this truth and living by it, every Catholic can learn to love the liturgy more and to participate in it more deeply, responding to the infinite graces that are present in each Mass. Many, unfortunately, are unaware that an encounter with Christ happens each time the liturgy is offered. Many allow themselves to become bored, are put off by the obligation to attend Mass, and many fall away. Yes, we must attend Mass each week in order to fulfill the commandment to keep the Lord's Day holy, but it is more perfect to do so out of love of God and the desire to praise Him. He is ever worthy of all praise and glory because of He is God. It is our great calling as creatures to find fulfillment and happiness in coming to know and love our Creator, and to worship Him.

The teaching of the Church about the presence of Christ in the Mass, or liturgy, comes from Christ's own teaching. Christ is present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, really, truly and substantially. The Eucharist is the great sign of the Church and the guarantee of Lord's abiding presence in the Church and in the sacraments.
Christ is also present through the authority of the Church to teach in matters of faith and morals in his name and, as it were, with his own voice. In today's Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter eighteen, verses fifteen to twenty, we hear again that the Church has been given Christ's power to bind or loose, to forgive or not forgive sins. All of the Church's faithful enjoy Christ's presence, through the Holy Spirit, while assembled to praise and worship him and to pray in His name. The Catechism helps us in our understanding. Christ, glorified at the right of the Father in heaven, is now present among us in a number of ways, including in the earthly liturgy, or the Mass. "Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.' " (Mt. 18: 20) (CCC 1088)

Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Sirach 27:30-28:7; Psalm 103; Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is one. Christ prayed that "they all be one" in his priestly prayer in the Gospel according to St. John.

Today, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter eighteen, verses twenty-one to thirty-five, Christ teaches that this oneness among his faithful is the authentic witness to His Lordship. Such unity comes about among all the Church's members through forgiveness. Peter asks the Lord, "How many times must I forgive my neighbor?" A good student of the Old Testament, he proposes the number seven. The Lord then reveals what true perfection will be among the men and women who truly seek the kingdom. They will forgive not seven times, but seventy-times seven times. They will forgive time and time again, time without numbering, without counting. Just as the Church of Christ is the reign of peace, so the kingdom is lacking where there is violence.

Lack of forgiveness is at the root of the abominable murders and warfare that have afflicted the world from the time of Cain and Abel. We are sickened by the stories of angry violence, of murder, of beatings, even within families. Media relentlessly reports parents murdering children, and children murdering parents. We confront now the horrors of partial-birth abortions, and abortifacient contraception, where the unborn child is not forgiven for being alive. Our bishops have asked that we fast from meat on Fridays for a year in reparation for this particular form of violence.

In so many cases today, the unhappiness and horrors in the world exist because the key to a peaceful life remains a hidden treasure. As we pray in the Our Father: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The forgiveness of the Lord, made possible through his passion, death and resurrection, and the peace which is its fruit, becomes something we experience, in a powerful and continuing way, through our practice of forgiving each other.

The witness of the Church is this forgiving love: "see how they love one another." The peace of God between neighbors is interconnected with the peace among men who love God. The Catechism reminds us: "Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end (Jn 13:1) become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial community, ends with these words: 'So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.' (Mt. 18:23-25) It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession." (CCC 2843)

We are freed from passion and anger, with which we allow our injuries to imprison us, by the transforming power of forgiveness. We forgive in Christ, and in Christ we regain the peace and serenity that were robbed from us when we failed to forgive. Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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SUNDAYS 25 - 27

Isaiah 55, 6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1, 20-24.27; St. Matthew 20, 1-16

"For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mt. 20, 16)

The calling of all mankind, the vocation of all, is to holiness.

But few are chosen. The "chosen" ones are those who respond to God's call perfectly spoken forth in Christ the eternal Word. These few persevere in "doing the will of their heavenly Father", professing the orthodox Catholic faith, living the faith in "fraternal sharing" and celebrating the faithin liturgy and prayer.

Thus, the parable of the vineyard is the Lord's call to all those who have received Him in word and sacrament to share generously with all men what they themselves have received. All share equally in the task, whether called early or late in the day, to build up the kingdom of God in this world.

Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Ezekiel 18, 25-28; Psalm 125; Philippians 2, 1-11; Matthew 21, 28-32

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
St. Augustine was drawn to God's glory and holiness long before he took action to commit himself to the truth and to change his life. He heard God's invitation but responded, "Yes, Lord, but not yet." Later overcoming his hesitancy, he embarked upon an adventure with God that led him to become one of the greatest saints and wisest men the world has ever known.
His book, The Confessions, his sermons and other writings, but most of all his holiness, have drawn many countless souls to Christ for over a thousand years.

In his parable of the two sons in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter twenty-one, verses twenty-eight to thirty-two, Jesus teaches us about commitment to God and to His kingdom. The son who says "yes" when the father orders him to go out to the vineyard and begin the day's work, loves his father only with his words, and not with his heart and actions as well. He is false to the father, for after saying "yes" he does not go. The other son, who says "no", appears to be the worse of the two, for by his word he denies the father in a way that the first son did not. And yet, because he later repents of his words and obeys the will of the father, he is assured a place in the kingdom.

Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law, and commanded the people to do as the Pharisees taught according to the law. But he also warned against following their example. We should be like the first son and say "yes" just as he did, but we must also be as the second son who obeyed the father, though at first he refused.

Many people profess to be scandalized by the hypocrites, backbiters, gossips and slanderers who go to church each week, citing this as an excuse for their refusal to worship with the community. Such "pharisaical scandal" is what Jesus attacks in his parable addressed to the chief priests, the Pharisees and the elders. The Pharisees prided themselves on their strict observance of the external rubrics of the law, puffed up with pride, as "whited sepulchers, full of dead men's bones." All are sinners, and must with humility recognize that it is God who justifies, and the law is his gift that we may live as members of the kingdom.

Everyone who professes to be a Roman Catholic and yet does not worship according to the perfect prayer of Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is the equal of the Pharisees. A man or woman who attends Mass, honest about his or her sinfulness, persevering in doing the Father's will, is the one who will be invited to the heavenly wedding banquet. Those are the more pleasing to Christ, who, though they are like the second son, and may very often say "no", yet they share in the kingdom by repentance, conversion of heart and obedience.

We can always turn to the Catechism to illuminate the words of scripture. "Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.' (Mk 2:17) He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast 'joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.' (Lk 15:7) The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life 'for the forgiveness of sins.' (Mt 26:28)" (CCC 545)

We are sons of a Father above all fathers, a Father who has adopted us in Christ so that we may share his life, and who likewise calls us to labor for him as loving sons and daughters. Many times we say "yes" to the Father's will, but I dare say we do not as many times respond with commitment, love, and perseverance. Through selfishness, sloth and sin we tell the Father we love him but speak otherwise in our actions. What a great gift, then, is our repentance; a grace given to us by the Father which is unfailingly met by His abundant mercy.

Let us always be as that son who, though he may have been false in his words, returned to love the father in his sorrow for sin and in his amended life. As we meet the Lord in the sacrament of Confession we do just this. We examine our lives and confess our sins. We also promise that, because we love the Father, we will in the future avoid the near occasions that led us to, knowing the Lord's will and saying "yes" with our voices, saying no by our actions. This same sacrament was the instrument of the Lord which transformed Augustine from a fornicator and idolater, a man just like the tax collectors and prostitutes, into a holy man in whom many have and still do meet Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Isaiah 5, 1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4, 6-9; Matthew 21, 33-43

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Through the parable of the vineyard Jesus reprimands the "chief priests and elders of the people" gathered around him. They are the tenant farmers of the parable to whom the precious vineyard has been entrusted by the property owner. The chief priests and elders had been placed in charge of the law, the prophecies, the sacrifices and all the riches which God bestowed upon the Chosen People.
When the owner attempts to collect the harvest, the tenants turn against him and beat and kill not only the slaves he sends but also the son. The tenants kill the son, so dear to the father, precisely because he is the son, adding viciousness to the abomination of murder. Their greedy purpose: to seize the inheritance which by right belongs to the son. The Father had presumed that they would respect him as owner and therefore also his son. The chief priests and scribes will be present among those calling for Christ's death, the "son" of the parable on the first Good Friday in Jerusalem.
The chief priests and elders prided themselves on their righteousness in keeping the Law. Jesus invites their judgment: "What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do?" By their own words they stand accused: "He will bring that wicked crowd to a bad end and lease his vineyard out to others who will see to it that he has grapes at vintage time." Though the first to receive God's law, they had come to reject it's fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah.
Christ will die rejected by the very people entrusted with all that was needed to know and believe that He is indeed the Son of God. The Church of Christ will be given, not to those people chosen and prepared for Him from the beginning, but instead to those who believe in Him and reverence Him as Lord. Christ is the summation, the completion, the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets. As a result, the "vineyard", the Church which leads to the kingdom, will become the inheritance of those who approach the Lord in faith and baptism.
In every age there are some who wrap themselves in the Catholic name for the purpose of denying Christ, or corrupting the faith and morals of God's people. This is putting our Lord to death, He who seeks to come alive in the hearts men through faith.  There are some groups today who organize under the name “Catholic” for the purpose of denying the faith of the Church Catholic.  There is no Church without the faith by which we know and believe the truth!  The faith precedes us, whole and entire, in the Church.  We either humbly and gratefully receive the entire orthodox faith in all its vigor and purity, or by rejecting it we excommunicate ourselves from Christ and His Church.  Those do not hope in vain for whom nothing will suffice but the truth and who seek it in sincerity, whole and entire, in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The world is full of alternative ecclesial bodies for those who want only a part of the truth, or who want a Christ of their own making, or who seek various compromises with error. The Church in its official teaching has sought above all to never compromise with error. This marvelous reality has been accomplished only in the Holy Spirit, and is a divine work. The Church is useless without Christ her Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Church exists to teach the Truth. Those sin against the Holy Spirit and deny Christ who attack the charism of celibacy, the male priesthood, the ministry of the Pope as Christ's Vicar and our teacher in matters of faith and morals. These are treasures bestowed upon the Church from the beginning by Christ and cannot be denied or compromised.

The Catechism quotes a passage from the document Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council in this regard.
”The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.” (CCC 755)
There is no salvation outside of the Church for those who commit apostasy, who deny their Catholic faith once having truly understood and embraced the Faith. To reject the true Church and her orthodox teaching is to reject Christ and His Salvation, for all graces by which he saves us come through His bride: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
” The Church...which is called 'that Jerusalem which is above' and 'our mother', is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ 'loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her.' It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly 'nourishes and cherishes.' “(CCC 757)
Be children of the Church!
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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SUNDAYS 28 - 31

Isaiah 25, 6-10a; Psalm 23; Philippians 4, 12-14, 19-20;
Matthew 21, 1-14

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The peace of Christ be with you!
Christ reveals his love and mercy in all that he says and does. All of his teaching reveals the saving love of God. So with the parables. These stories of the kingdom reveal the outpouring of God's desire to embrace us in Jesus Christ. God is love. His love and mercy are fully revealed to us in Christ. We meet and know Christ in the truth, handed down to us in the Tradition and the Scriptures. The work of the Church in every age is to proclaim the saving truth, that all mankind may be saved.
Our understanding is marred by the effects of original sin. Our idea of love must be purified, corrected and raised up by Christ in His Cross and Resurrection. Our ability to return God's love is crippled by the sinful ways we twist love to our small, petty or selfish purposes. Hence, God's ministry of love in Jesus Christ is the preaching of the truth in love. This is the ministry of the Church, and of all priests who share in the one priesthood of Christ.
In the parable of the marriage feast Christ taught the chief priests and elders that in Him the Father invites them to the banquet of eternal life. They, and all of the Chosen People, are the invited guests, many of whom, in rejecting Christ, refuse to come. In murdering the prophets and teachers who preceded Christ, many rendered themselves "unfit" for the banquet.
In Christ, the abundance of the kingdom of grace and peace, the banquet of God's goodness, is poured forth for all: " must go out into the byroads and invite to the wedding anyone you come upon." For God, there is no "A" list or "B" list; all are called to accept adoption as His sons and daughters, and to share the bounty of the wedding hall.
God is love, yes, and He is full of mercy, but His love is demanding. "When the king came in to meet the guests, however, he caught sight of a man not properly dressed for a wedding feast." When questioned why he came in his casual clothes instead of his Sunday best, the man is dumbfounded.
Jesus desires deeply that all be saved, and so he invites all to the banquet, but He yet preserves our freedom to reject Him. This is a great mystery, but the answer lies in God's love. True love preserves the freedom of the one loved, to either respond with authentic, free, Godly love, or to reject But why did the king tell this one man he was improperly dressed? Why did he speak such harsh words: "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth"?
"The marriage", says St. Gregory the Great "is the wedding of Christ and His Church, and the garment is the virtue of charity: a person who goes into the feast without a wedding garment is someone who believes in the Church but does not have charity." Accepting the invitation means not only entering the banquet hall, the Church. One must be properly attired in the wedding garment of Christ's grace, the charity in which we must persevere as we engage in worship, in work, in recreation, in service. The sincere response, the "yes" of an interior life of charity, is reflected in external acts of charity toward God and neighbor.
"Many are called." God's saving love embraces all of creation.
"Few are chosen." The "final judgment" is nothing more than that moment when our choice to love God is sealed by His eternal embrace of love in heaven, or when we face the consequences of our rejection of God's love by refusing to keep the commandments. Jesus teaches us, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Our cheapened, easy "love" often forgets that the currency of authentic love is a generous dying to self and obedience to another.
The man or woman clothed with an obedient charity, sincerely calling upon Christ as Lord and Master, possesses peace and joy, the fruits of authentic Christian life. "The practice of the moral life animated by Charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages,...we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands...we are in the position of children. St. Basil (CCC 1828)

Peace is in keeping the whole message of Christ. Let us cast off "deeds of darkness" and selfishness, and clothe ourselves in generous charity toward God and neighbor. Peace and joy are the fruit of obedience.
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Isaiah 45, 1. 4-6; Psalm 96; 1 Thes 1, 1-5;
Matthew 22, 15-21

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The peace of Christ be with you!
Church and State. God and Caesar. "Is it lawful to pay tax to the emperor or not?" Jesus is the focus of a hatred so great in today's Gospel, that the Pharisees, nationalists, and Herodians, sympathizers with Rome, have put aside their mutual antipathy and joined in an effort to entrap him and arouse the people against him. They think they've found the perfect ruse. Get Jesus to oppose taxes and earn the anger of the Romans and their minions. Get him to support taxes and arouse the ire of the nationalists. The object: eliminate this troublemaker from their midst.
As he does so often in the Scriptures, our Lord leaves his opponents and attackers stunned by his responses. He masterfully recognizes their "bad faith", while teaching, as only God can, the truth that they, as desperately as all mankind, need to hear. At first glance, one might think that Christ displays his wisdom only in throwing a plum to both sides in the national dispute. The Romans want their taxes, while the Jews want their religion and recognition of the kingship of God. Above and beyond this, our Lord speaks to them, and to men of every age, who become ensnared in competing loyalties and forget that kingship belongs to God omnipotent. Men rule at God's good pleasure. "You would have no power...unless it had been given you from above." (Jn 19:11) Jesus Christ is universal king; men are blessed to share in his authority.
We have in our own day an abundance of conflicts between Church and state. Is a matter political or religious? If it's deemed political, many believe, the Church should have nothing to say. Attempts to muzzle God go back to the beginning of salvation history. The prophets were put to death for speaking God's truth long before the Pharisees and Herodians tried to entrap and silence Christ.
The abortion issue, many say, is a political issue, and therefore a matter for Caesar alone. Men of God, it is said, should be silent. Human life , in fact, is a moral issue, and when the laws of men are immoral, attacking the laws of God and the sacredness of human life, than Godly men should shout from every rooftop, priests should preach from every pulpit, every believing man and woman should speak out and protest. " God the things that are God's." All human life is sacred, from the hands of the creator. "For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful, wonderful are thy works!" (Psalm 139) When Caesar's laws are an abomination before God, then it is Caesar who must change.
Whether opposing the culture of death or any tyranny of the political order, the Christian gives first allegiance to the laws of God. "The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' (Mt 22:21) 'We must obey God rather than men.' (Acts 5:29)
'When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.' (Gaudium et spes, 74) (CCC 2242)
If a child was trapped under a car, an upright man would plow through any opposition to save the life of that child. Any infant lying helpless under the bloody scalpel of a doctor-turned-murderer deserves no less. Pray for those engaged in peaceful, prayerful and non-violent protest against abortion. Pray also for those who heroically risk imprisonment, beatings and torture to meet and counsel mothers and fathers on sidewalks everywhere to turn their hearts away from the temptation to murder their children.
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Exodus 22, 20-26; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1, 5-10; Matthew 22, 34-40;
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The peace of Christ be with you!
In the Gospel according to St. Matthew we encounter Christ in conversation with a lawyer who has asked him a question, not in order to learn, but in a malicious plot to destroy Christ: 'Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?' In the belief that he can lure the Lord into preferring one law before all the others he hopes to set the stage for charges to be brought against Jesus as a heretic. Out of this evil intent Christ brings forth the beautiful gift of the "greatest commandment": "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Mt 22:37-40)

The Decalogue, the ten commandments, must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law.
"When someone asks him, 'Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?'[Mt 22:36.] Jesus replies: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.'[Mt 22:37-40 ; cf. Deut 6:5 ; Lev 19:18.] The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:
The commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [Rom 13:9-10.]"(Catechism of the Catholic Church 2055)

"The word 'Decalogue' means literally 'ten words.' (Ex 34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4) (CCC 2056) Jesus summed up man's duties toward God in this saying: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' (Mt 22:37) This immediately echoes the solemn call: 'Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.' (Deut 6:4) God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the 'ten words.' The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God." (CCC 2083)

The misery index is way up in today's world, all the experts agree. Family breakups, murders, cheating, stealing, lying; all are present reminders that despite the predictions of many, man's lot is not improving. What is needed, of course, is love and concern for neighbor. On that many also agree. But the confusion enters the picture when the experts convene to find the solution to the problem. For Christians, followers of a revealed religion, no committee is necessary. We worship and obey the Triune God, who has spoken the "words" that will bring us goodness, peace, and love. Man's inhumanity to man must be attacked, but all efforts are impotent without the first step: love of God.
Each man and woman must give first place to God and the kingdom, in love and obedience. This is spelled out in the first commandment, and such love is made outwardly manifest through reverence, defined as sacred actions, thoughts and words, particularly in the presence of God. The "sense of the sacred" is not optional for the Christian. It must be practiced and improved each day. If we do not reverence the Lord, we cannot with sincerity say that we love him. This we utter his holy name in prayer and praise, and never in vain, and we acknowledge his true and real presence in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood as we enter and leave church by a genuflection. Love expressed in reverent thoughts, words and actions is the essence of "fear of the Lord", awe of the greatness of God.

"Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not? I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have - yes, have to an intense degree - if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them." (John Henry Cardinal Newman) (CCC 2144)

A number of Catholic practices are available to aid us in developing our sense of the sacred: genuflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or the prescribed gestures of the liturgy, such as striking the breast when praying the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass, bowing during the recitation of the Creed, and standing and singing Alleluia at Mass out of reverence for the Word of the Lord in the Gospel. We kneel during Mass before His true and substantial presence in the Eucharistic host, and genuflect or bow prior to receiving our Lord in Communion, as strongly recommended by our bishops or kneel for Communion, as is traditional. With these signs of reverential love we can witness to others, and start a revolution of God's love in the world.

Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
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Malachi Ch 1, v 14 - Ch 2, v 2. v 8-10; Psalm 131; 1 Thes Ch 2, v 7-9. v 13;
Matthew Ch 23, v 1-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Call no one on earth your father. Call no one on earth your teacher."

Our Lord is the Truth incarnate, and uses many means to impart the truth. Only by a proper understanding of his words can we properly follow his teaching. Is our Lord forbidding us to use the name "father" to describe our parents or godparents? Should we no longer call our "teachers" by that name? In another place in the Gospel, our Lord says, "Only one is good, our heavenly Father." Did he mean that he himself was not good? Of course not. Our Lord uses a style of teaching which grabs our attention, and for that reason often is not what it at first appears to be.

The point that our Lord impresses upon us here is that all fatherhood comes from God, and all fatherhood should be referred back to God and lived in accord with the goodness and love of God. St. Paul himself claimed the title "father". We read in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 14, "I...write this as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel." Was St. Paul in violation of the Gospel? Not at all. He understood our Lord's teaching and applied it properly in his life, as we ourselves must do. He was "father" precisely in reference to God our heavenly father, because he brought the life of God the Father to those to whom he preached, whom he baptized and adopted into the family of God. And so also today with our priests

The priesthood is a precious gift beyond our understanding. Mere men are able, through the gift of ordination, to share in the one true priesthood of Jesus Christ, the High Priest. "In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth." (CCC 1548) Beginning with the Apostles, the first priests created by our Lord on Holy Thursday, and handed down through the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, down to our own day, every man who shares in that gift brings the life and love of Christ to the whole world.

This is a scandal-ridden age, and the Church always suffers in her members from the effects of scandal. "Scandals will come, but woe to those by whom they come." But we must always hold fast to the truth. And the truth about the priesthood is that the Fatherhood of God, perfectly revealed to us in Jesus Christ the Priest, is ours through the men we call "Father". We are children of God through the preaching of the truth by our deacons and priests and the grace of the sacramental life they dispense.

In this age of error and falsehood we are desperately in need of the truth of Christ the Teacher through the word and counsel of our priest-fathers. We are children of God through baptism at the hands of our priests. We shed the weight and shame of sin, by the words of forgiveness, "Ego te absolvo", from Christ through our priests. In this manner we become again the beloved children of God we were destined to be from the beginning of time. We receive the very Body and Blood of Christ through the hands of our priests in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There are some today who wish to pretend that lay members of Christ's faithful people can substitute for the priest as the one who offers the Sacrifice and confects the Eucharist. This is not so.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that all the baptized share in the one priesthood of Christ but that the ministerial priesthood, in service to all the baptized, differs in kind and not just in degree from the common priesthood of the faithful. "...the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis." (CCC 1548) The ordained priest is ontologically changed, in the core of his being, and is "a priest forever". He teaches, preaches, offers the Sacrifice, baptizes "in persona Christi", in the very person of Jesus Christ. Lay members of the faithful can never, by power of their baptism, make Christ truly present on our altars.

Let us honor and pray for all men who share, always unworthily, in the one priesthood of Christ. Let us shun detraction and calumny against priests, as we should concerning all our brothers and sisters. And let us proclaim and teach the sublime dignity and beauty of the priesthood, through which we always meet, know and love our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacramental life

This week, take a moment to thank your priest for "being a priest".
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Fr. Cusick
(Publish with permission.)