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Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
by Fr. Cusick
(CCC stands for the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
(Note that in the Roman Catholic traditional lectionary,
the following readings are for the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday)
Rejoicing increases as Christmas approaches. On the third Sunday the altar with its flowers, the rose-colored vestments and the playing of the organ all give emphasis to this increasing joy.

Epistle: Philippians 4. 4-7; Gospel: St. John 1: 19-28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

Look to the coming of the Lord, "prepare the way of the Lord", as does John, humbly proclaiming, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29) This phrase, in the Latin, "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi," has been handed down in the sacred liturgy, proclaimed by the priest while holding up the sacred Host, the Body and Blood of Christ, for the adoration of the faithful. John the Baptist, man of holy humility and bold proclamation, demands that we turn our eyes to Christ, who "takes away the sin of the world." Wholehearted desire for Christ begins with honest acknowledgment of our sinfulness, "the sin of the world": both original sin, ours by "origin" from our first parents, and personal sins. 

The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, 'the sin of the world.' (Jn 1:29) (CCC 407) 

"This dramatic situation of 'the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one' (1 Jn 5:19) makes man's life a battle: 'The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.' (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 37, art. 2)" (CCC 409) 

Much of what ails the world today is rooted in an erroneous view of the human person, a view which has omitted the reality of original sin. Two effects remain in man after baptism, flowing from the sin of our first parents: a darkened intellect and a weakened will. Unless we acknowledge this fact, we struggle to love Christ in vain and deny he is God. The Lord has told us, "Without me you can do nothing." If we believe that we can accomplish anything good without Christ, we deny him, we deny the need for salvation, we claim to save ourselves. 

The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails 'captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil.' (Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb. 2:14.) Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, (Cf. John Paul II, CA, 25.) and morals. (CCC 407) 

The judges, the courts, and small lobbying groups with large bank accounts today demand, for example, that the label "marriage" be applied to something other than a lifelong union between man and woman alone. This has become possible because the world has become unmoored from rootedness in God which alone can guide man and woman to an authentic understanding of themselves, of each other, of God's will and plan, and, in Christ, of the possibility of holiness and salvation. 

Adrift without Christ, the individual is left only with the false gods of desire and self-will. Many divorced and remarried persons, rendering their own opinions as magisterial, re-admit themselves to Communion in violation of the express teaching of the Church that each marriage be submitted to the judgment of the Church and that men and women have their marriages blessed by the Church before participating further in the sacramental life. Many today are their own magisterium, rendering the truth of God mere opinion, equal to the scientific theories of the day, or the preference of the majority. Denial of the "sins of the world", both original and personal, is a fatal error. Life is in Christ alone, and Christ alone can exchange sin and death for life. 

Our Church is a prophet, preparing the way for Christ both at Advent and the end of time, guiding us as we walk the paths of our vocations through the world. The Church is Mother and Teacher, "Mater et Magistra" as Pope John XXIII declared. The Church is such because of, and for, the will of Christ the Lord. The Church does not offer mere opinion when she opens and explains the Word of God, handed down to us through Scripture and Tradition. The Church teaches with the authority of God Himself. "I give you the gift of the Holy Spirit", "I will be with you always", "He who hears you, hears me." 

John the Baptist guides us in Advent, a people who look to Christ alone to take away our sins and to open heaven for us when he comes again in glory. Christ is the "Lamb of God", to whom we confidently go to receive the fullness of God's mercy. Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Go humbly, and with a sense of urgency, to receive him who unburdens us of the weight of death and shameof sin and gives us in exchange his unending, divine life. 

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


Used with the permission of Fr. Cusick from his website