St. Rita Roman Catholic Church
1008 Maple Dr.
Webster, NY 14580
585-671-1100
Weekend Masses: Saturday- 5:00pm
Sunday- 7:30am; 9:00am (children's liturgy); 10:30am
Daily Mass is at 8:15am on Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday, and Friday (no Mass on Wednesday)
Reconciliation: Saturday from 3:30-4:30pm
Office Hours: M-Th 9am to 4:30pm; Fri 9-12:00pm

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - July 14, 2019

The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Parable of the Good Samaritan“If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God”
 
Our readings today focus our attention on the law of God, written in our hearts. Jesus, who came “not to abolish the law but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17), gave a whole new way of understanding the law.
 
Our first reading (Deuteronomy 30:10-14) highlights the simplicity and purity of God's law as originally transmitted by Moses. It is near to us, already in our hearts; it is not hard to understand. We have only to carry it out. 
 
Moses said to the people: "If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.
 
"For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."   
 
In our Epistle reading (Colossians 1:15-20), St. Paul opens his letter to the Church in Colossae with a majestic poem or hymn that was probably in common use in liturgies of the day. In it, Paul reminds his listeners of the primacy of Jesus, the "first born of all creation" and the “first born of the dead.” It is this same God who was the giver of the Mosaic Law as it was the teller of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
 
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus was tested by a religious lawyer about how one merits eternal life. When questioned by Jesus, he summarized the law with quotes from the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But Jesus told him a parable that showed the true nature of God's law and mercy, which we are called to emulate. Jesus placed the Samaritan (despised by the Jews) as the hero in his story, in contrast to the Jewish priest and the Levite, who were following Jewish custom and law.
 
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
 
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."   
 
The question in today’s Gospel, “Who is my neighbor?” was easily answered in the Jewish tradition of Jesus' time - it was someone of one's own clan, tribe or family; certainly not an enemy. Not so, said Jesus. It is even, perhaps especially, an enemy, the downtrodden and the outcast. May our readings today cause us to reflect on the Law of God written in our hearts, our true conscience. When have we ever crossed the road and passed a stranger by instead of stopping to bind his wounds? How shall we act the next time?
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - July 7, 2019

The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be Glad” 

Mission of the 72In our readings this Sunday, we find great Joy in the redemptive love of God and in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ. We boast of our joy, even in our suffering.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 66:10-14), God spoke through the prophet Isaiah as the Jewish people were returning to rebuild Jerusalem after years of captivity in Babylon. As they found their city and temple in ruins, God promised that the day would come when their beloved Jerusalem would be as a a nursing mother, tenderly caring for her children. That would be a time of great joy.
 
Thus says the LORD: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.
 
In our Epistle reading (Galatians 6:14-18), we hear the conclusion of St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. In it, Paul reminded his community once again that it is through the glory of the cross of Jesus that we are saved, and worldly issues like circumcision are of no import. His boast is in the sufferings and scars of his apostolic labors. His concern (and ours) is the new creation in Jesus.
 
Brothers and sisters: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and  I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20), we hear of Jesus sending seventy two disciples out to the towns and countryside to preach the Good News. He gave them detailed instructions, and they returned overjoyed at the wonders they were able to do in the name of Jesus.    
 
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house  to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.' Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.' Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town."
 
The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to 'tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
 
For the Israelites, restoration to their homeland was a joyous and wondrous thing. For we Christians, restoration to our "new creation" in Christ is even more joyous and wondrous. Just as Jesus sent his seventy-two out into the world to preach and to heal, so does he send us. May we take to heart his instructions to his disciples. We too are like lambs sent among wolves. We too should feel the urgency of the mission, not burdened down by the trappings of this world. And just as they returned rejoicing for what God had accomplished through them, so may we reflect that same joy as we live out our redemption.
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 30, 2019

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

“I will follow you wherever you go.”

FollowOur Church has completed it’s Easter season and post-Easter season of Solemnities (Trinity and Corpus Christi). We now return to ordinary time, the numbered (ordinal) weeks between the high seasons of Easter and Advent. Our readings this Sunday focus on God’s call for us to follow him unconditionally, and our response to that call—it must be complete, full-hearted and now!. In our readings, we hear disciples respond with, I will follow you, but not now, later. Jesus responds with Not later; Now!
 
Our first reading from the First Book of Kings (1 KGS 19:16B, 19-21) is the story of the Prophet Elijah being called to anoint Elisha as the prophet to succeed him. Elisha responded with, in a sense, Not just yet; but then he slaughtered all his oxen, gave the meat away and followed Elijah.
 
The LORD said to Elijah: "You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you." Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you." Elijah answered, "Go back! Have I done anything to you?" Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
 
In our Epistle reading (Galatians 5:1, 13-18), St. Paul admonishes us to leave behind the things of the flesh, worldly enticements, and live in the freedom of the Spirit, serving one another through love.
 
Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.
 
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 9:512-62), Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem to fulfill his destiny. On the way, he met people who wanted to follow him, but not just yet. Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury the dead” (the spiritually dead—those who do not follow—bury their physically dead). In other words, There is no 'later', follow me now! You cannot serve two masters at the same time.
 
When the days for Jesus' being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
 
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
 
Jesus was resolutely on a mission! There was nothing to get in his way to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to bring it to fruition on earth through his passion, death and resurrection. There is no doubt that each one of us has been called by God to be his disciple, to let nothing in our lives come before serving the Lord and loving one another. There can be no distractions. What remains now, is how we discern and respond to that call. God will grant us the grace if we but ask. 
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 23, 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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

“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

For the past few Sundays, the Church has been reminding us of the passionate love God has for us and the many gifts he has given to help us abide (rest) in him. First was the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, where God sent his Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us. Last Sunday was the celebration of the Holy Trinity where we were reminded of the sacred mystery of three distinct persons in one God, loving us unceasingly.
 
This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ—the everlasting gift Jesus gave to us at the Last Supper so that he could physically dwell within us. Our readings this Sunday offer two events that prefigure the Holy Eucharist - one Old Testament and one New Testament. Also, the earliest written account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper.
 
Our First reading is from the Book of Genesis (Gn 14:18-20). It is an account of Abram’s successful battle with four kings in order to rescue his nephew Lot from captivity. To celebrate the success, Melchizedek, the priest / king of Salem (later to become Jerusalem) offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. Melchizedek is seen as a prefiguring of Christ and the Eucharist. You may have heard the term, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
 
In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)we hear the first recorded account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper. Saint Paul describes for us the words Jesus used and how the practice of the Eucharistic meal had been handed down to all Christians. This was Jesus’ gift of himself to us, to ensure that he would always be really and substantially present to us—in body, blood, soul and divinity. These same words are often heard in the sacrifice of the Mass.
 
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 9:11B-17), we hear St. Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. Luke tells us of Jesus’ compassion and love for the people. In these words of Jesus, we hear another prefiguring of the Holy Eucharist, “looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied.”
 
Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves." They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty." They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
 
The Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, like any blessing, can be taken for granted, even at times seem routine. How often do we ponder the awesome gift and blessing there is in Communion with God? How often do we give thought to the real, true presence of Jesus entering our bodies and our souls. Some people think it impossible for bread and wine to be changed into the body and blood of Christ. To this, St. Ambrose once said, “If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to bring into existence things which were not, then a portion of those things which already exist can be changed into something else"  Perhaps we can simply be thankful that we have been reminded of how much God loves us and wants us to be like him.
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 16, 2019

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
“When The Lord Established The Heavens,
I Was There!”
 
The Sunday after Pentecost always celebrates the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. The thing about mysteries is that they are mysterious, unknowable. Attempting to fully understand this mystery is like trying to fit the ocean into the thimble of our mind.  Many Catholics invoke this mystery multiple times a day in blessing themselves, ”In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . .”, yet we rarely give thought to its import. Our readings for today give us a glimpse into this mystery of who is the Holy Trinity - three distinct persons in one God. 
 
In our First reading from the book of Proverbs (Prov 8:22-31), we hear of the mysterious creature Wisdom, who was there before the beginning of creation. Many Scholars have thought Wisdom in this passage to represent Jesus and / or the Holy Spirit. Today’s passage calls to mind the opening of John’s Gospel, referring to Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God . . . What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.” (John 1:1-4)
 
Thus says the wisdom of God: "The LORD possessed me, the beginning of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world.
 
"When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race."
 
In our Epistle reading (Romans 5:1-5), St. Paul explains the fruits of our relationship with the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, which is the outflowing of the perfect love between the Father and the Son. It is through this unity and the gift of faith that we receive pardon for our sins (justification) and peace in our lives. Paul gives us a new understanding that we can “even boast of our afflictions”, as an opportunity to unite our sufferings with Christ and thus be strengthened by it.
 
Brothers and sisters: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
 
Our Gospel reading (John 13:12-15) is an excerpt from Jesus' farewell discourse to his disciples at the last supper. Jesus was preparing them for the days to come within the limits of their capacity to understand. In this brief passage we find embodied the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 
 
Jesus said to his disciples: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
 
By our human nature, God has given us the desire to understand the unknowable, to come closer in relationship to our Creator, to fill the "God-shaped" hole in our hearts. Our readings today help us understand the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity; that it is the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus that draws us closer to the Father. We find this presence in no greater place and in no greater measure than in the Holy Eucharist. Through it, we commune with God. 
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - January 9, 2019

Pentecost Sunday

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

“Receive The Holy Spirit”

This is the celebration of Pentecost. For Christians, it commemorates the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus. 'Pentecost' is a Greek word meaning 'fiftieth”. In Judaism, the Festival of Weeks (Shavu’ot) was celebrated seven weeks and one day after the Passover. It commemorated the day the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the temple. It also commemorated the day God gave the Torah to the people of Israel. All Jews of age were required to travel to Jerusalem to participate in the celebration. Pentecost Sunday is often referred to as the birthday of the Church - the day when we Christians became Church. 
 
Our first reading (Acts 2:1-11) tells the story vividly. Ten days after Jesus had been taken up to heaven, the disciples were celebrating the harvest festival of Pentecost. Jerusalem was filled with “devout Jews from every nation under heaven”. “And suddenly, there came from the sky . . . .“
 
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
 
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:3, 12-13), St. Paul explains the many different spiritual gifts that come from the same Spirit. And yet, there is also one gift of the Holy Spirit common to all Christians—belief that “Jesus is Lord.”
 
Brothers and sisters: No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
 
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
 
Our Gospel reading (John 20:19-23) is significant in that it is when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles and gave them the authority to forgive sins. This Sacrament of Reconciliation is Jesus' gift directly to us. It is the direct action of the Holy Spirit that enables the Father’s love, through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus, to forgive all of our sins.
 
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
 
We have been reading in the Acts of the Apostles all during this Easter season of the “Mighty deeds and wonders” performed by the Apostles and new disciples of Christ. We also have heard of their incredible bravery and even joy in the face of terrible persecutions and martyrdom. All of this happened because of the gifts given them by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Could the Holy Spirit, would the Holy Spirit give the same gifts to us? Would we want to accept them? It starts with the conviction that “Jesus is Lord.
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 2, 2019

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

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

“Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”

As we look forward to Pentecost (next Sunday), our readings today are a series of last words. We hear the last words of St. Stephen as he was stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”We hear the last words of St. John at the end of the Book of Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus!”, and we hear the very last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before going out into the night to his arrest and crucifixion.
 
In our first reading (Acts 7:55-60), we hear of the first recorded martyr for Christ, St. Stephen, the Deacon. He was arrested for working “great signs and wonders among the people” and for speaking in Christ’s name. He was stoned to death as a blasphemer, even as he called out to God to forgive them.
 
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them;” and when he said this, he fell asleep.
 
Our Second reading (Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20) is from the very end of the Book of Revelation. John tells of the second coming of Christ, who is the beginning and the end. In a series of “I AM” statements, Christ tells us who he is and that he is coming soon.
 
I, John, heard a voice saying to me: "Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. 
 
"I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let the hearer say, "Come." Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water. The one who gives this testimony says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
 
Our Gospel reading (John 17:20-26) is taken from the end of Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper. It is sometimes called the High Priestly Prayer, as Jesus turned his attention to his Father. He prayed an intercessory prayer for his disciples and for those who would come to believe through them. These were the last words spoken by Jesus before he went out to the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer is for unity, that all may be one, even as Jesus and the Father are one.
 
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."
 
As we look forward to and await the coming of the Lord when our world, as we know it, will end, we sometimes can get the idea that Jesus has not yet come. The end times is Jesus final coming, when he will bring ”the recompense to each according to his deeds.” But it is not his only coming. He came to us at his humble, defenseless birth in a manger; he came to us at Pentecost; he comes to us every day in the Eucharist and he comes to us every time we call upon him in need. “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 26, 2019

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

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


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

Our readings this Sunday give us a glimpse of the past, present and future of our faith and our salvation. The past is the struggles our early Church leaders went through in unifying their fledgling communities of love and sorting out God’s plan for them. The present is Jesus’ dual gifts of his Spirit to guide us and his blessed peace to sustain us. The future is John’s vision of the New Jerusalem to come (the entire people of God) that will be like a massive fortress, gleaming with the splendor of God and basking in the light of the Lamb.
 
In our first reading (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29), we hear of Paul and Barnabas’ great success in converting many Gentiles as disciples. But not without controversy, because those in Jerusalem expected them to conform to all Jewish laws, including circumcision. A council in Jerusalem, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, settled the matter.
 
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. The apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them:
 
"The apostles and the elders, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: 'It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'"
 
In our second reading (Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23), St. John describes what the New Jerusalem of paradise will look like in symbolic terms that the Jews of his day would have clearly understood. Despite their current trials, they had something to look forward to. “It’s radiance was like that of a precious stone.” “It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. It had “twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” “The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.”
 
In our Gospel reading (John 14:23-29), Jesus continues his farewell address to his disciples at the Last Supper. Here, he gives them two gifts that will guide them and sustain them in their difficult days ahead. The “Advocate” is the Spirit of love between the Father and Son and will be their teacher and guide; the “Peace” he leaves with them will comfort and sustain them like nothing the world has ever seen.
 
Jesus said to his disciples: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 
 
"I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe."
 
Our faith not only has a past and a present, but it has a future. No matter how dire or fearful our past has been or our present seems, our future is what God has planned for us. We remember that Jesus himself promised us, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)Our future is the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, where every tear shall be wiped away and God himself will provide the radiance and the light to warm us. In the meantime, we have the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us and the Peace of Christ to sustain us. Ours is to believe it, and prepare our souls to receive it.
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 12, 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Christ is Risen!

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Our Easter celebration continues. In our readings this Sunday, we hear about a Church of united followers of Christ, spreading in leaps and bounds to the ends of the earth. This is a Church in right relationship with their God, following their shepherd wherever he leads them.
 
In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52), we hear about the first of many missionary journeys of St. Paul and his companions. This journey was to Antioch and other cities in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Paul’s success, especially with the Gentiles, bred jealousy in the Jewish leaders and they expelled him from the city of Antioch. Undaunted and “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”, they continued on to many other cities.
 
Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats. Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God. 
 
On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
 
The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
 
Our Second reading (Revelation 7:9, 14-17) is yet another apocalyptic vision of John. This writing offers comfort and reassurance to those of John’s time who were experiencing many persecutions. People of every nation on earth would one day stand before the throne (God) and the Lamb (Jesus) in white robes, having “survived the time of great distress” (persecutions). God will wipe away their every tear.
 
I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
 
“For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
 
In our Gospel reading (John 10:27-30), Jesus was speaking about his relationship with his followers and how, like the Good Shepherd, his sheep know his voice and follow him. This is the “right relationship” Jesus has with us and we with him as he gives us eternal live.
 
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
 
Today, we are reminded to think of Jesus as our Good Shepherd and of the intimate, loving and caring relationship Jesus has with us. It was this relationship that certainly sustained the apostles and disciples on their missionary journeys throughout the territories of Israel, Turkey, Syria and Greece. Would it not sustain us as well on our missionary journeys throughout the territories of our lives? Jesus says, “Yes, I will!”
  • Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the full scripture readings for this Sunday
  • Click HERE to read more about apocalyptic literature and the Book of Revelation

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 5, 2019

The Third Sunday of Easter

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Christ is Risen!
“Peter, do you love me? ...Feed my sheep”
We continue this Sunday to hear eye-witness accounts of encounters with the risen Jesus Christ and the effect he had on those who encountered him.
 
In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40b-41), the apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin for fearlessly teaching in the name of Jesus after being instructed not to. They were flogged for their offense, yet they went away rejoicing that they were found worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus.
 
When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, "We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles said in reply, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."
 
The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
 
In our second reading (Revelation 5:11-14), we hear another of John’s apocalyptic visions. This one declaring the kingship and authority of the “Lamb that was slain” (Jesus). “All of creation fall down and worship him.” This reading is full of symbols such as “the elders” (the entire people of God) and “the four living creatures” (the four corners of the earth.)
 
I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing." Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever." The four living creatures answered, "Amen, " and the elders fell down and worshiped.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 21:1-19), Jesus appeared a third time to his disciples; this time at the Sea of Tiberias. There are three keynotes in this reading. First, after fishing all night with nothing, Jesus overfilled their nets - a symbol of the great numbers who would become Christians. 
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
 
Second, Jesus ate breakfast with them, with Eucharistic overtones in the passing of the bread. 
When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught." So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.
 
Thirdly, Jesus reversed Peter’s three denials on the night of his trial and installed him as the shepherd of his Church (tend my sheep). 
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to Simon Peter a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." Jesus said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
 
We can find no better example of how to evangelize than the apostles. They boldly and fearlessly proclaimed the risen Christ to the world, regardless of the consequences. “We must obey God rather than men”, they said. Look what these twelve men and others accomplished as a result—not on their own but with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is no less willing and active today, if we but call upon him and trust in him.
 
Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the full scripture readings for this Sunday
 
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