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Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
by Fr. Cusick
(Note: CCC refers to Catechism of the Catholic Church )
Epistle: Ephesians 4. 1-6      Gospel: St. Matthew 22. 34-46

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The peace of Christ be with you!

St. John of the Cross zealously pursued the reform of the Church through the Carmelite order. He called for a return to simplicity and poverty in an age that glorified materialism and worldly fashion. He placed his love of God first and spurned human respect, risking violent attacks and even death. His single-mindedness, prayer and holy example won the day. 

Today we encounter Christ in conversation with a lawyer who has asked him a question: 'Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?' This worldly man needed to learn the preference for Christ over this world. He asks, not in order to learn, but in a malicious plot to trap Christ and destroy him. Out of this malicious intention 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:

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)  (CCC 2250)

We also read, "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 scene when all 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, and this is spelled out in the first commandment. Reverence is the outward manifestation of that love. 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. And so 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.

"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 good first step, and a practical one, would be to follow the prescribed practice in the liturgy of bowing the head at the name of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, our Lady and the saint of the day. This is a custom of the Church, but one which is not being handed down to our children. Another practical step is a genuflection prior to receiving our Lord in Communion, according to the strong recommendation of our bishops, in those places where Communion is not received while kneeling. With these signs of our 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

Used with the permission of Fr. Cusick from his website