Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

Ordinary Time, Sundays 12-21, Year C

Select liturgy here

SUNDAYS 12 - 14
SUNDAYS 15 - 17
SUNDAYS 18 - 21


 SUNDAYS 12 - 14


Zechariah 12. 10-11;13:1; Psalm 63: 2-6,8-9; Galatians 3:26-29; St. Luke 9: 18-24

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself.

By Father Kevin M. Cusick

Our way as Christians is to follow the Lord Jesus, to follow his invitation to ?follow me.? He makes clear that if we would follow Him, we must deny ourselves.

And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (LkIf any man would come after me, let him deny himself.

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Denying ourselves entails denying what we want so that we can desire instead what God wants. This is always true in the case of wanting something incompatible with God?s will. It can also be true, however, in areas where God?s plan is indifferent as to what we choose, in order that our hearts might become enlarged for God as we learn to love and regard self less. Self denial is part of the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the world around us which begins within each one of us.

?By virtue of their kingly mission, lay people have the power to uproot the rule of sin within themselves and in the world, by their self-denial and holiness of life (cf. LG 36).? (CCC 943)

Through the ?priesthood of the baptized? we have been given the grace and call to sanctify the world beginning with our own sanctification through self-denial, one of the ways in which we exercise this priesthood shared by all of the baptized.

?It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity." Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.? (CCC 1657)

Whether they are full-time or part-time educators of their children, all parents are called to school their children in the self-mastery that makes self-denial possible.

?Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones." Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

    ?He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.

    ?Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ?

(CCC 2223)

Our opportunities in the life of the Church for the practices of penance, which aid in the virtue of self denial, are ample.

?The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).? (CCC 1438)

All self-denial is to lead to conversion of heart, that we might learn ever more to love God entirely, with heart, mind, soul and strength. ?Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, (Cf. Am 5:24; Isa 1:17.) by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance. (Cf. Lk 9:23.)? (CCC 1435)

Abundant are our opportunities daily of taking up the Lord?s cross in our own life that His life might be ours forever.

(See also nos. 1434, 1436, 1437, 1439, 2600 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) 

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Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 1434, 1436, 1437, 1438, 1439, 2600 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
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1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21; Psalm 16: 1-2,5; Galatians 5: 1, 13-18; St. Luke 9: 51-62

The Lord we follow, though God Himself, humbled Himself in this world as one with the poorest of the poor.

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Lk 9:58)

If we would truly follow Him, then we must embrace His humility, expressed outwardly in His humble earthly circumstances.

"The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to preach good news to the poor; (Lk 4:18; cf. 7:22.) he declares them blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3.) To them--the little ones--the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. (Cf. Mt. 11:25) Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst, and privation. (Cf. Mt 21:18; Mk 2: 23-26; Jn 4:6-7; 19:28; Lk 9:58.) Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom. (Cf. Mt 25:31-46.)" (CCC 544)

The kingdom is ours through humility because we learn through this virtue to shun the desire for what is not ours and is thus not Gods will for us. "The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God." (CCC 2554) As the Son loved and accomplished the Fathers will, so we seek as our mission in this life to do the same. Some will answer the call to poverty and some will not. But all are called to humility that the riches of Gods grace might be theirs.

The poor are blessed when with childlike simplicity they are content with what they have and the humility of their circumstances is simply the outward expression of the spiritual truth that all of us are most needy before God, from whom every blessing flows. We are all equal before God and all humbled before Him. All of us are sinners and therefore all in need of salvation. The way in which we use the good things of this life should walys be ordered toward salvation. My neighbors blessings can be mine as well if I will but allow myself to share in the rejoicing.

"Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility:

Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother's progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised. "

(CCC 2540)

Shunning envy opens the path of simplicity, a constant receptiveness to the presence of God within despite ones earthly circumstances. Though a vow of poverty is the easiest and surest way to simplicity in this life, all are called to the virtue of humility no matter their rank or station.

Our life of prayer, and in particular the prayer Christ Himself taught us, is offered in a pleasing way through the humility of childlike simplicity before God, "Our Father".

"Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord's Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn "from this world." Humility makes us recognize that "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," that is, "to little children." The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area "upon him" would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us.

The expression God the Father had never been revealed to anyone. When Moses himself asked God who he was, he heard another name. The Father's name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name "Son" implies the new name "Father."

(CCC 2779)

(See also nos. 543, 545, 546, 557 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

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

(See also nos. 543, 545, 546,, 557 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
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Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; St. Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

The Church, the community or communio founded by Christ, shares in the Passion and Cross he endured as the God-man, but at the same time also shares in his divine mission and power.

"...the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.' " (Lk 10:1-2)

All of the labor of Gods people is good and all given by God for holiness. But no work of human hands can be raised up for supernatural good and for salvation without the work of the Church, the gathering of Gods faithful and baptized from every people and nation on earth, the sanctification of souls through word and sacrament.

"The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. (Cf. Mk 3:14-15.) Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. (Cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rev 21:12-14.) The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ's mission and his power, but also in his lot. (Cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1-2; Mt 10:25; Jn 15:20.) By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church." (CCC 765)

The Apostles, sent by Christ, have through their authority sent out successors to continue their work. Our bishops today send out priests who cooperate in the work of bringing in an abundant harvest of souls for the kingdom.

"The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them." priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience." (CCC 1567)

We must pray for vocations to the priesthood that the grace of the sacraments may be richly poured out in the Church. The Catechism reminds us:

"Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ." (CCC 1495)

"Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, using oil blessed by the bishop, or if necessary by the celebrating presbyter himself." (CCC 1530)

"Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord." (CCC 1411)

By Gods will the sacramental life makes necessary the life and ministry of the priests, who are thus constitutive, or necessary, to the life of the Church and the salvation of the world.

Our divinely appointed mission is to work, pray and encourage young people to pursue vocations to the priesthood as well as the religious life, those whom he sends out "two by two" that they may bear him to all places and peoples. In particular, the laborers who number "few" are the men called to share the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, without which there is no Holy Mass and no Eucharist, no absolution or anointing.

Pray to the Lord of the harvest as a share in the mission and power of Christ, eternal high Priest. And answer the call with courage and humility if you are one of the privileged and heroic "few".

Todays readings: Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; St. Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20. See also nos. 763, 764, 766, , 787, 2122, 2611 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)


Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 763, 764, 766, , 787, 2122, 2611 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
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SUNDAYS 15 - 17


Deuteronomy 30, 10-14; Psalm 69; Colossians 1, 15-20; St. Luke 10. 25-37

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our burden and privilege as Christians is to be held to the very highest standards of conduct in thought, word and deed: Christ Jesus Himself. We desire to live abundantly, that is forever, and only in Christ is found such abundant life. If we would live forever we must begin now to live in Christ and persist in this life until the end.

"The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself. (St. Therese, Story of a Soul) " (CCC 2011)

Christ has given us a share in his own life through death on the cross and Resurrection, and so we must be as Christs for one another and give in the same way. "To whom much is given, much is expected." To those who call themselves Christian has been given more than to anyone else in the world.

"By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:14)." (CCC 1844)

The charity of the Samaritan made him pleasing in God's eyes, though to Jews he was a heretic and an outcast, judged condemned. The priest, a leader and holy man among the Jewish people fell short in God's eyes, for he was without charity.

"Christ died out of love for us, while we were still enemies. (Romans 5:10) The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. (Cf. Matthew 5:44; Luke 10: 27-37; Mark 9:37; Matthew 25:40, 45.)" (CCC 1825)

Why charity? To share in Gods life and love and thus be happy. Living the virtue of charity bears the fruit of divine love and a foretaste of heaven which is the state of perfect fulfillment and eternal happiness in the presence of the living God.

"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: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest." (CCC 1829)

How is charity lost? God has given us free will, and therefore we must cooperate with his grace and freely choose to do His will. If we choose to break his law with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will, we loose the virtue of charity having sinned mortally. Venial sins weaken charity and can lead to mortal sin.

"Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it." (CCC 1855)

Charity is noth our greatest gift and our greatest call. St. Pauls hymn on charity mught be the most beautiful in all of Scripture.

"If I . . . have not charity," says the Apostle, "I am nothing." Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, "if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing." Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity." (CCC 1826)

We must love all, including our enemies, and must pray for them or we are without charity and therefore without God's love. Let us begin now the regular practice of prayer for our enemies as well as for those who love us that the doors of heaven may not be shut against us.

(See also CCC paragraph numbers 1293, 2083, 2603, 2822.)

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

See also CCC 1293, 2083, 2603, 2822

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Genesis 18:1-10a; Psalm 15: 2-5; Colossians 1:24-28; St. Luke 10: 38-42

It is the ardent hope of all the faithful to someday see God face to face in the beatific vision which is the life of heaven.

“Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory ‘the beatific vision’:

Until that day we anticipate the full revelation of heaven by contemplating the glory of God on the face of Christ, who came to reveal the Father to us.  Martha’s sister Mary has begun to enjoy the grace of prayerful adoration as she sits at the Lord’s feet and drinks in His words.  "Mary has chosen the good portion." (Lk 10:42) Mary's choice was prayerful attention, contemplation and adoration.  All who follow vocations in the world must embrace the active life of service, the while remembering that prayer and communion with God are the “better portion”, superior to the active part of Christian life.

It is the activity of prayer which best expresses and fulfills our duty to adore almighty God.  Prayer sometimes takes the form of contemplation.  Adoration of the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharistic Host is the most privileged and most perfect contemplation of God this side of heaven.

“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the "interior knowledge of our Lord," the more to love him and follow him.” (CCC 2715)

Mary of Bethany had the perfect subject for contemplation: the Son Himself who is the incarnate image of the Father.  We do not have the privilege as she did of the bodily companionship of Christ but he is no less present in our world.

“ ‘The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.’ Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.” (CCC 1162.)

Our liturgies, and in particular the Mass, are the primary moments in which statues, icons, hymns and meditation on God’s Word enable us to place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and begin to enjoy the “better portion” as did Mary of Bethany.  The fruits of faith, hope and love which result from such prayer nourish our minds and hearts so that we might go forth to sanctify the world.

The prayer of the rosary is one of the ways in which we contemplate the Lord by meditating on His words and works as we learn about them in the Scriptures.

The tradition of Christian prayer is one of the ways in which the tradition of faith takes shape and grows, especially through the contemplation and study of believers who treasure in their hearts the events and words of the economy of salvation, and through their profound grasp of the spiritual realities they experience.” (CCC 2651)

“The acts of faith, hope, and charity enjoined by the first commandment are accomplished in prayer. Lifting up the mind to God is an expression of our adoration of God: prayer of praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition. Prayer is an indispensable condition for being able to obey God's commandments: ‘[We] ought always to pray and not lose heart.’ " (Lk 18:1) (CCC 2098)< I>

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
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Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 138: 1-3,6-8; Colossians 2:12-14; St. Luke 11: 1-13

If our work in the world is to be found in the will of the Father, if what we do is to bring the Divine presence and message to those with whom we work and live each day, we must be people of sincere and heartfelt prayer. A regular life of prayer What we do will reflect who we are.  Prayer forms as people who worship the Lord in all of our thoughts, actions and words.

Authentic prayer begins for us in the same “school” as it did for the Apostles: the lessons taught by the Lord.   We come to the Lord, as did the Apostles, and we also ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The Lord is the master of prayer, for as the God-man he prayed perfectly, and he does so still. What is wonderful for us, he invites us to enter ourselves into his life of perfect prayer and communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit of God.

“Jesus ‘ was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'(Lk 11:1) In response to this request the Lord entrusts to his disciples and to his Church the fundamental Christian prayer. St. Luke presents a brief text of five petitions, (Cf. Lk 11:2-4) while St. Matthew gives a more developed version of seven petitions. (Cf. Mt 6:9-13) The liturgical tradition of the Church has retained St. Matthew's Text:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil
.” (CCC 2759)

The Lord’s Prayer is of itself a catechism or primer on the discipline of Christian prayer.  The Lord not only gives us the words to say as we enter into conversation with the Father, he also directs the sentiments of the heart and mind in order that our prayer may be fitting worship as well.  In union with the Father and His will, the suppliant enters with these words and heartfelt sentiments into the same Holy Spirit as did the Son, humbly and sincerely before the Almighty who knows what we need before we ask, but desires that we grow in love with Him that he may be more truly our Father in heaven.  The Kingdom which we yearn for in prayer is the perfect realization of the Father’s desires for us and for the whole world, summed up in the possibility and destiny of salvation offered in and by the Son, our Redeemer.  It is the end toward which the action of prayer and all worship is directed, the summation of every good which we may seek in this world.  Every natural good or blessing is a sign of our eternal and supernatural end in union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In our official prayer as the body of Christ on earth, we the Church offer the prayer our Lord taught us thrice each day, in the morning and evening prayers as well as in the holy Mass.  We add what is called the acclamation of the doxology in the liturgy of the Mass.

“Very early on, liturgical usage concluded the Lord's prayer with a doxology. In the Didache, we find, "For yours are the power and the glory for ever." (Didache 8, 2: SCh 248, 174.) The Apostolic Constitutions add to the beginning: "the kingdom," and this is the formula retained to our day in ecumenical prayer. (Apostolic Constitutions, 7, 24, 1: PG 1, 1016.) The Byzantine tradition adds after "the glory" the words "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The Roman Missal develops the last petition in the explicit perspective of "awaiting our blessed hope." and of the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then comes the assembly's acclamation or the repetition of the doxology from the Apostolic Constitutions.” (CCC 2760)

“The Lord's Prayer ‘is truly the summary of the whole gospel.’ (Tertullian, De orat. 1: PL 1, 1155.) ‘Since the Lord...after handing over the practice of prayer, said elsewhere, “Ask and you will receive,” and since everyone has petitions which are peculiar to his circumstances, the regular and appropriate prayer [the Lord's Prayer] is said first, as the foundation of further desires.” (Tertullian, De orat. 10: PL 1, 1165; cf. Lk 11 :9.)” (CCC 2761)

See also nos. 443, 520, 728, 1425, 2601, 2613, 2623, 2632, 2671, 2759, 2761, 2762-2865, 2773, 2845 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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

See also nos. 443, 520, 728, 1425, 2601, 2613, 2623, 2632, 2671, 2759, 2761, 2773, 2845 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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SUNDAYS 18 - 21


Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 95: 1-2,6-9; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; St. Luke 12: 13-21

"One of the multitude said to him, 'Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?' " (Lk 12: 13-14.)
Why does the Lord, in effect, refuse this man's request? Was the request wrong? Perhaps not.
The Lord's purpose is take the moment to teach about the higher good of the kingdom which might be lost to those who sin by coveting the goods of this world. By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness, and death, (Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.)

Jesus performed Messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, (Cf. Lk 12:13-14; Jn 18:36.) but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage. (Cf. Jn 8:34-36.) (CCC 549)
The primary mission of Christ is to free mankind from the evil of sin. Then he said to the crows, Avoid greed in all its forms. A man may be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life. (Lk 12) The tenth commandment forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. (CCC 2552)
Greed, or avarice, is one of the capital sins. Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great.
They are called "capital" because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (CCC 1866)

The Lord Jesus offers us the gift of grace, the power in Him by which we can keep the law and walk in the way of salvation. The economy of law and grace turns men's hearts away from avarice and envy. It initiates them into desire for the Sovereign Good; it instructs them in the desires of the Holy Spirit who satisfies man's heart.
The God of the promises always warned man against seduction by what from the beginning has seemed "good for food . . . a delight to the eyes . . . to be desired to make one wise." (CCC 2541)
Grace engages our human freedom to choose and do the good we ought to do and reject the evil, such as greed, that we ought not do. Freedom and grace. The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart.
On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world.
By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world: Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your will. (Roman Missal, 32d Sun, Opening Prayer.) ( CCC 1742)

Almighty God forbids vices, or sins, that He might grant us virtues in their place. The Holy Spirit, at work in us through word and Sacrament, is the give of all good gifts or graces. Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.
But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."
Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church. (CCC 2003)
See also nos. 547, 548, 550 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33: 1, 12, 18-22; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; St. Luke 12: 32-48

What delightful and consoling words are communicated to us in the Gospel. Do not live in fear, little flock. The Lord had such great tenderness and solicitude for us.
He desires that we be preserved from the fear that threatens to separate us from Him and His salvation. He also calls us by a name which conveys his all embracing love. We are his little flock.
Little, for in some times and places a not so very grand or important group as the world might judge. Little also for the reason that we are like tender lambs, weak and in need of a shepherds protection and care against the wickedness and snares of the devil, who, with his minions, are as wolves who seek to devour the flock.
So we learn thus to look with trust upon Jesus Christ, our true shepherd, and to follow his voice faithfully. He will lead us out to pasture and feed us, and likewise lead us back into the sheepfold for safekeeping.
We learn, too, that there is but one flock which has been formed and belongs to this one shepherd, Christ. This one little flock addressed with such tender devotion by the Shepherd, is the Church. As the place where the sheep of the Lord are gathered safely, the Church is the true sheepfold.
"The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep. (CCC 754)

Jesus Christ is shepherd of the one flock, his Body the Church, whose members we are. This one Church of Christ "subsists within the Catholic Church" (Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council.). The Church, the one flock, makes visible the kingdom of God.
"This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ." (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 5)
To welcome Jesus' word is to welcome "the Kingdom itself." ( LG 5) The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the "little flock" of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is. (Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1-21.)

They form Jesus' true family. (Cf. Mt 12:49.) To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new "way of acting" and a prayer of their own. (Cf. Mt5:6) (CCC 764)
In the Church, the one flock the Lord feeds and protects His sheep through the ministry of the shepherds who stand in his Person, in persona Christi.
Priests, bishops and the Holy Father, our Pope (Papa in Greek) enable us to live without fear because we are in intimate contact with our Shepherd through the preaching and teaching of the Scripture and tradition and the grace of sacramental life. 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.
This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ. (CCC 1548)

The ministry of our shepherds in the priesthood of Christ was founded upon and handed down by the Apostles. He is present among us through their ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit, in particular as they exercise their priesthood in the Holy Mass and all the sacraments.
Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority. Raised to the Father's right hand, he has not forsaken his flock but he kee ps it under his constant protection through the apostles, and guides it still through these same pastors who continue his work today. Thus, it is Christ whose gift it is that some be apostles, others pastors. He continues to act through the bishops. (CCC 1575)
In particular it is the priest and bishop, who stands in the place of Peter, who acts as principal shepherd of the flock of the Church.
The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the rock of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.
The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. (CCC 881)

We, the little flock of the Lord, need never live in fear if we faithfully feed at the true source of the graces of redemption and remain in the sheepfold of the Ch urch.

See also nos. 763, 765, 766, 2849 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Meeting Christ in the Liturgy

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


Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40: 2-4, 18; Hebrews 12:1-4; St. Luke 12: 49-53

The consuming fire of the Lord's love and mercy has been cast upon the earth through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, is symbolized by fire.

While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy spirit's actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who "arose like fire" and whose "word burned like a torch," brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. (Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.) This event was a "figure" of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes "before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah," proclaims Christ as the one who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Lk 1:17; 3:16.) Jesus will say of the Spirit: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49.) In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself. (Acts 2:3-4.) The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit's actions. (Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.) "Do not quench the Spirit." (1 Thess 5:19.) (CCC 696 )

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
See also nos. 536, 607, 696, 1225, 2804 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117:1-2; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; St. Luke 13: 22-30

"Lord, will those who are saved be few?" "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Lk 13:24.)
The disciples ask a question that continues to be of importance to many today. Every manner of person, Catholic or not, Christian or not, all want to know: Does life go on after this world?
If it does, is there a heaven and a hell? Some give up wondering and just say, like a famous actress once did, I dont look forward to heaven, I dont look forward to hell, I just look forward to oblivion. Perhaps, by saying so, she wanted to sound sophisticated and condescending, as if to maintain the supercilious upper class hauteur for which she had become famous. Regardless, even for one who reacts thusly, the mystery is not resolved this side of the grave.

Only faith can assure us with the knowledge that the soul is eternal, and that it is a natural consequence of the gift of our free will that when we depart this life we will either go to heaven, perhaps by way of purgatory, or to hell, a traditional name for the state of eternal separation from God. God has revealed his desire that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth desire since the time of Adam and Eve.
This revelation was not broken off by our first parents' sin. After the fall, [God] buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing. Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death. . . Again and again you offered a covenant to man.(Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) (CCC 55)

The narrow door is the way of Christ Jesus. One enters the way of life in Christ, of the grace of the sacramental life, beginning with baptism. The fullness of the life of sanctifying grace in the universal Church enables man to fully live the law of God in love. Thus living the life of grace, man and woman look forward with confidence to their salvation in Christ.
Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation. (Faustus of Riez, De Spiritu Sancto) Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith. (CCC 169)

For those who die before the final judgment, depicted with such awesome grandeur by the artistic genius Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel, there comes first an individual judgement.
Then, at the last trumpet all will rise, both the living and the dead, to learn who will and who will not be saved. The final judgment is an article of faith which we proclaim each time we recite the Creed.
The resurrection of all the dead, of both the just and the unjust, (Acts 24:15) will precede the Last Judgment. This will be the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (Jn 5:28-29.)
Then Christ will come in his glory, and all the angels with him....Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left...And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mt 25:31, 32, 46.) (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1038)

Each of us prepare throughout our lives on earth for that great and final day when we meet Christ face to face, he who knows us perfectly, but also loves us perfectly. At the judgment we will learn whether we truly loved Him in return and thus can enter into the joy of the Lord. In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare. (Cf. Jn 12:49.) The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When "our God comes, he does not keep silence"...he will turn towards those at his left hand:..."I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father-- but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head.
Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I place them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence." (St. Augustine, Sermo 18, 4: PL 38, 130-131; cf. Ps 50:3.) (CCC 1039)
If we begin now to know and serve the Lord in the least of his brothers and sisters, to love Him in the poor, the outcast, the lonely and the sinner, then we will not be like those who "stand outside" and "knock at the door" when once the householder "has risen up and shut the door." (Lk 13:25.), we need not fear to hear him say: "I do not know where you come from." (Lk 13:25.)
See also paragraph numbers 1040-1060 in the Catechism.
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