St. Rita Roman Catholic Church
1008 Maple Dr.
Webster, NY 14580
Masses: Sat 5:00 pm
Sun 7:30; 9:00 (children's liturgy); 10:30 am
Mon-Fri 8:15 am
Reconciliation: Saturdays from 3:30-4:30 pm;
Wednesdays after morning Mass (about 8:45)
Office Hours: M-Th 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Fri 9:00 to 12:00 pm

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
One theme found in our readings for this Sunday is the suffering servant, vindicated by God. It is not the picture the disciples had for the messiah. They expected a victorious, triumphant leader. No no, said Jesus. The messiah is to be much like the suffering servant of Isaiah found in today's first reading.
In our first reading (Isaiah 50:5-9), we listen as Isaiah prophesied the role of the suffering servant that would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He meekly and willing submited to his suffering, yet with full faith that God would deliver him.
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?
In our Gospel reading (Mark 8:27-35), we hear a two-part exchange between Jesus and his disciples. First, Peter, speaking for the disciples, proclaimed, "You are the Christ." But then completely misunderstood the role of the Christ. Peter rebuked Jesus when he predicted his passion and death. Jesus responded by teaching them the paradox of discipleship - embrace your cross.
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
In our Epistle reading (James 2:14-18), St. James brings clarity to the age-old discussion of whether we are justified by faith alone or by faith and good works. James' argument is that true faith must be expressed through good works. Without works, faith is dead. Good deeds is the evidence that faith exists.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, " but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
Our world today is suffering; our Church today is suffering; we and our families today are suffering. One thing we might learn today is that by embracing our cross, in union with Jesus' passion and death, we find meaning and purpose in our suffering. May we embrace the concept of redemptive suffering, wherein we find redemption in our suffering. May we take up our cross and follow him.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 9, 2018

The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Jesus heals the deaf man"EPHPHATHA!" - BE OPENED!"
Our readings this Sunday show that what Isaiah foretold long ago is fulfilled by Jesus who comes to save us, to open our ears and our hearts to the word of God.
In our first reading (Isaiah 35:4-7), Isaiah offers consolation and restoration to a people afflicted and oppressed by the evils of their time. In many ways, our world today is just as afflicted and oppressed by the evils of our time.
Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools,  and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 7:31-37), Jesus entered into the pagan territory of the Decapolis, where their ears were closed to the word of God. Jesus healed a deaf man with a speech impediment, echoing Isaiah's prophesy of our first reading. They were astonished and declare, "He has done all things well."
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” - And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In our Epistle reading (James 2:1-5), St. James teaches us that human dignity is not determined by wealth or status. Our faith in the "glorious Lord Jesus Christ" is the great equalizer. Christians show no partiality between the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the powerful and the powerless.
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please, ” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?
Jesus' healing of the deaf and dumb man should be seen also for it's deeper, spiritual significance. It is Jesus who "comes with recompense to save us." It is He who opens our ears to the Gospel and allows us to speak what we hear. It is He who takes us away from the cacophony of voices that drown out God , who touches us and whispers in our ear, "Ephphatha - be opened!". And it is He who gives us the grace and the courage to proclaim the good news that we hear. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 2, 2018

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
This Sunday's readings are all about the law of God, what is it and how we internalize it. It's about external vs internal behavior; the letter vs.the spirit of the law.
In our first reading (Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8), Moses sets before the people the law given to them by God. It is a privilege, given so that they would be an example to the nations, of their wisdom and intelligence in following its statutes and decrees.
Moses said to the people: "Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, 'This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.' For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?"
In our Epistle reading (James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27), St. James explains how the law (word) has been planted in us and that we must be doers, not just hearers. Evidence that we are following our religion is seen in the care of those in need and how well we live.
Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21- 23), Jesus seemed to set up a teaching moment for his disciples (and us). He is criticized by the Pharisees for his disciples who do not follow the letter of Jewish law. Not only did this lesson teach the importance of internal behavior over external behavior, it showed a more inclusive attitude toward Gentiles who did not follow Jewish law.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. - For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. - So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?" He responded, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. "From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."
Jesus is not anti-law. He teaches us that the law must be in our hearts and not just for show. It is what comes from within us, not what goes into us that can bring us closer to God. It is substance over form, mercy over vanity that counts. Which do we choose?

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 26, 2018

The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
This Sunday we come to the conclusion of our five-week meditation on the Eucharist. In last week's Gospel, Jesus was quite clear and quite literal that we are called to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood." This was very hard for his followers to accept. In this Sunday's readings, we learn - It's decision time! We are called to make (or recommit to) a choice, just as the early Israelites were in our first reading and the apostles were asked in today's Gospel.
In our first reading (Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18), Joshua assembled the Israelites as his life on earth was coming to an end. As they were now well established in their promised land, Joshua sought to renew the covenant their ancestors made at Sainai. "Decide today, whom you will serve!"
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: "If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
But the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
In our Gospel reading (John 6: 60-69), we hear the conclusion of Jesus' Bread of Life Discourse. His disciples found it hard to accept Jesus' command to eat his very flesh and drink his very blood. Many of them left and returned to their former way of life. Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Imagine being there in that moment.
Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."
As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 5:21-32), St. Paul is always teaching us how we should live as Christians. Today's passage is often interpreted without considering to whom it was written or the time and culture in which it was written. The central theme is that the marriage bond is akin to Christ's intimate, loving relationship with his Church. We are called to "be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ"; to love each other as Christ has loved us.
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
"Decide today whom you will serve"; "Do you also want to leave?" It might be helpful, sometimes, to sit down and consider the consequences of these decisions. What happens if I choose A; what happens if I choose B. For the apostles, it was a no-brainer. They had already come to believe, "Master to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life." Just like the apostles in today's Gospel, we are asked the question, Do we believe Jesus or not? If we do, we know what we must do.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 19, 2018

I am the bread of life
The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Our readings this Sunday continue the exploration of the Eucharist and its true significance in our lives. We have our third of four segments of the Bread of Life Discourse from the Gospel of John, chapter 6; and we have an Old Testament invitation to a banquet that prefigures the Eucharist.
In our first reading (Proverbs 9:1-6), Lady Wisdom builds her house of seven columns (signifying perfection or completeness) and invites us to her banquet of food and wine. In her house is wisdom, understanding and life.
Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: "Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.
In our Gospel reading (John 6:51-58), Jesus tells his listeners not only is he "the living bread that come down from heaven" but that this food is his actual flesh and actual blood. Jesus leaves no doubt that he is speaking literally and not metaphorically or symbolically. His listeners have great difficulty in hearing this.
Jesus said to the crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 5:15-20), St. Paul echos the invitation found in our first reading to live with wisdom, not as foolish persons. This is what "living in the Spirit" means.
Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Over these past four weeks, our story is becoming clearer. We started with the miracle of Jesus feeding five thousand people with just a few loaves and fishes. But this food nourished the body only and not the soul. We have since learned that Jesus feeds us with his very life - his own flesh and blood. This is the life he gave us on the cross and continues to give us in the Eucharist every day. This is impossible to accept and understand unless we can first accept the divinity of Jesus. Then it all makes sense. That is what the "Jews" in our Gospel readings could not understand. Thank God we do.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 12, 2018


I am the bread of life

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Our readings this Sunday continue the theme from last Sunday of the food that God gives us to sustain us on our journey; and our transition from earthly concerns to spiritual concerns.
In our first reading (1 Kings 19:4-8), we hear the story of the prophet Elijah who was so disillusioned by the opposition to his ministry that he wanted to just give up. That's something that many people may identify with, at least sometimes. God intervened and provided food for Elijah's long journey through the desert to the mountain of God, Horeb. There, he would encounter God in the "tiny, whispering sound."
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: "This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
In our Gospel reading (John 6:41-51), we hear a continuation of Jesus' Bread of Life Discourse. The "Jews" (probably people who knew Jesus and his family) found it hard to accept Jesus' claims that he is the Messiah, the "bread that came down from heaven". They could not see beyond their earthly concerns and refused to accept that God can do anything.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven, " and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 4:30-5:2), St. Paul describes how we Christians are to live in the Spirit. Nourished by the body and blood of Christ, we now have the grace and courage to be "imitators of God . . . to live in love."
Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Both our first reading and Gospel passage lead us to the Eucharist. It is this spiritual food and drink that sustains us on our journey to the Father. In many ways, we are like Elijah, tired and disillusioned on the desert path towards the mountain of God. And then, the angel of the Lord appears and calls to us, "Get up and eat, lest the journey be too long for you." Perhaps this is what St. Thomas Aquinas had in mind when he wrote the song, Panis Angelicus. "The bread of angels has become the bread of men. . . the body of the Lord will nourish the poor and humble servant."

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 5, 2018

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass


I am the bread of life
The Bread of Life Discourse


The journey from slavery to freedom is never an easy one. The transition from the physical to the spiritual is part of that journey. Our readings for the next four weeks center around the Bread of Life Discourse in John, chapter 6. In it, Jesus takes us on the journey from the physical to the spiritual. Jesus himself is the food that will sustain us on the journey.

In our first reading (Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15), the Israelites are just beginning their journey from slavery to freedom. Life is hard in the desert and they grumble. God demonstrates his love and care for them by giving them food for the journey.

The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "Would that we had died at the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!"
Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God."
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, "What is this?" for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, "This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat."
Our Gospel reading (John 6:24:35) immediately follows last week's Gospel where Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. In this reading, the crowd followed Jesus to Capernuam. Their bellies filled with food, they look for another physical miracle. Jesus responds by telling them to focus not on the "food that perishes but the food that endures for eternal life." "I am the bread of life", says Jesus.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent. "So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat." So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 4:17, 20-24), St. Paul encouraged the Christian converts in Ephesus to continue their journey from the old ways of the Gentiles to the new ways in the spirit of Christ. Take off the old clothes of deceitful desires and be renewed in the spirit.
Brothers and sisters: I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth.
We, in this life, are on no less a journey than the ancient Israelites in the desert grumbling about food, or the Ephesians in the process of conversion from their old self to their new self. As Jesus tells us in today's Gospel, we should worry less about the things that satisfy our earthly desires and more about what will sustain our spirits for the journey to eternal life. As we progress through the next four weeks, we will learn precisely who and what will nourish and sustain our spirits.
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, August 5


An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - July 29, 2018

The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass


Jesus feeds the five thousand


This Sunday's readings stress the limitless love of God in caring for his flock. Both our Old Testament and New Testament readings share similar encounters with God's mercy.

In our first reading  (2 Kings 4:42-44), the Prophet Elisha calls upon the power of God to feed a hundred people with only twenty barley loaves. After the people had eaten their fill, there was food left over. A similar scene with much deeper layers of significance is played out in today's Gospel passage.

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God, twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits, and fresh grain in the ear. Elisha said, "Give it to the people to eat." But his servant objected, "How can I set this before a hundred people?" Elisha insisted, "Give it to the people to eat." "For thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'" And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.

In our Gospel reading (John 6:1-15), we hear of the multiplication of the loaves, the feeding of the five thousand. It is the only miracle story found in all four Gospels. John's telling of it is the most complete, with rich Eucharistic overtones and Old Testament references. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is moved with pity for the multitude of people who followed him and his disciples to the mountain. The Eucharistic corollary is clear as Jesus took the bread, blessed it and distributed it. It can be said that the twelve baskets left over is one for each apostle as they go forth fulfilling their mission.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 4:1-6), St. Paul explains what should be our response to God's grace - our calling to the unity of one people, one God, one baptism in one Spirit. This is how we are to live as Christians.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Today's readings knit together Old and New Testament themes to reveal Jesus as the Messiah, the new Moses who has come to feed his people. While our readings mention physical food, the deeper meaning calls us to seek the spiritual food that is Christ himself, which is limitless in its quantity and efficacy. God's mercy and love knows no bounds. Our response, as St. Paul tells us is humility, gentleness, patience and love.

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 29


An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - July 22, 2018

The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
The Just Shepherd


This Sunday's scripture readings are all about shepherds - good ones and bad ones. God promised that he himself will shepherd his people Israel and raise up an heir to the throne of David who will reign as a righteous king.

In our first reading (Jeremiah 23:1-6), the prophet chastised the weak and sinful kings (shepherds) of his day for scattering their flocks and then speaks on behalf of God as he promises a righteous shoot from David will reign as king and Israel shall dwell in security. This messianic prophesy is fulfilled by Jesus as we will hear in today's Gospel.

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our justice."

In our Gospel reading (Mark 6:30-34), the twelve apostles return from their mission elated but exhausted (see last Sunday's Gospel). Jesus takes them to a deserted place to rest but the crowd follows. Jesus reveals himself as the faithful shepherd of the new Israel as he is moved with pity for them. He began to teach them many things. In the next passage that follows this, Jesus will feed the five thousand with just five loaves and two fish.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 2:13-18), St. Paul tells the Gentile Ephesian community that through the blood of Christ, the dividing wall has been broken down. They and the Jews have been united into one people; just as God had promised in our first reading, God has "gathered the remnant of his flock".

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Again, lest we think that this talk about shepherds of old does not concern us, we should keep in mind that we are all shepherds in some way - either for our family, our friends, or those in our care or charge. We are blessed to have the apostles and Jesus himself as our models. May we live up to our calling.

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 22


An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - July 15, 2018

The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
The Mission of the Twelve

In last Sunday's readings, we learned about our calling as prophets, to speak God's truth to those around us. This Sunday's readings continue that theme as Jesus sends his twelve apostles on a mission to preach repentance and to cure the sick.

In our first reading  (Amos 7:12-15), we hear the prophet Amos being rejected by the priest Amaziah. Amos responded that he was an ordinary shepherd called from following the flock by God.

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, "Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple." Amos answered Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel."

In our Gospel reading  (Mark 6:7-13), Jesus sends his twelve apostles on a mission of preaching and healing. They were to take nothing with them, relying totally on God and the community for their sustenance. Not everyone would accept their message.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick- no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14), we hear from the opening of Paul's letter to the Ephesian community. It is both a blessing and a teaching. In this passage, Paul teaches us that we are chosen by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ. In Christ, we are destined with the purpose of the will of God. We are called to glorify God with our lives.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory.

As St. Paul tells us, we have been chosen before the foundation of the world. Chosen for what? To praise and glorify God with our lives, to preach God's truth by living and loving as God would have us do. And like the prophet Amos and the apostles, be prepared for what rejection will come our way. It is our destiny.

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 15