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 - October, 20, 2019

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

“Be Persistent, Whether It Be Convenient, Or Inconvenient”

The Parable of the Persistent WidowPrayer is the lifting up of our hearts and minds to God in a relationship of love and trust. Last Sunday, our readings talked about prayers of praise and thanksgiving  — our response to God’s healing touch in our lives. This Sunday's readings focus our attention on the gift of prayers of petition for ourselves and others, and our persistence in praying to God. If even the dishonest judge will grant the persistent widow her request, how much more will our God of Mercy respond to our prayers.

In our first reading 
(Exodus 17:8:13), we hear the story of the Israelites, who were fighting a battle with Amelek after being attacked at Rephidim. They prevailed in their battle only because of God's mercy at the prayers and persistence of Moses.
 
In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel. Moses, therefore, said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
 
In our Epistle reading (2 Tim 3:14-4:2), St. Paul continues to instruct his protege Timothy to remain faithful to what he has learned from the Scriptures and charges him to be persistent in his pastoral duties of proclaiming the Gospel.
 
Beloved: Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to  God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all  patience and teaching.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus instructed his followers on the importance of persistence in prayer and faithfulness. He told them the parable of the persistent widow, who wore down the dishonest judge with her persistence. Surely God would do no less.
 
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
 
At times, we lose heart and give up too easily in our prayer and religious devotion, expecting results in our time and manner instead of God's. Our ultimate prayer is for salvation, and in that we must always remain steadfast and hopeful. May God grant us not only persistence in prayer, but also patience and trust.  

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 13, 2019

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

“Stand Up And Go, Your Faith Has Saved You”

Cleansing of the Ten LepersOur Readings this Sunday continue our discussion from last week about faith. But also this week, we hear of God’s healing touch in response to our faith and then, our response to God’s healing.

Our first reading from the Second Book of Kings (2 KGS 5:14-17)  compliments today’s  Gospel reading very nicely. It is the story of Naaman, a pagan army general who was healed of his leprosy by the Prophet Elisha. In a pagan world, there were many local gods.  Naaman, in his gratitude, recognized the Lord as the one true God of all the earth. Naaman’s response to his healing went beyond gratitude to actual conversion.

Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy. Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant."

Elisha replied, "As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;" and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused. Naaman said: "If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD."

In our Epistle reading (2 Timothy 2:8-13), St. Paul reminds his readers of the Gospel he preached and his suffering in prison, gladly on their behalf. He offered encouragement to remain faithful, but also a word of caution of the consequences of denying that which they knew to be true—That Christ brought salvation to the world through his death and resurrection.

Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19), we hear the story of ten lepers who came to Jesus begging to be healed. Jesus sent them off to show themselves to the priests. One of them, a Samaritan, realized he was healed and returned to the Lord in thanksgiving. The others, presumably, went on to show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan had his priorities straight. First, he returned to the Lord to give praise and thanksgiving. As a result, he was not only healed physically, but spiritually.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!" And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

The Greek word used for “Thanksgiving” in today’s Gospel is “Eucharist”. That could be our best and surest way to give praise and thanks to our God for his healing touch in our lives. Today, it might be good to take stock—In what ways have we been healed by God? Has there been healing in our lives where we haven’t even noticed? How have we responded to God? This is a good thought to have in our minds the next time we come to Jesus in the Eucharist.

Read and reflect on the full readings of Today’s Mass at: www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 6, 2019

An Introduction to the Scripture Readings for
the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

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


“The Just One, Because Of His Faith, Shall Live”

Our readings today show us an aspect of faith that we rarely consider. It is a faith borne out of hope for salvation and realized through the charity of a servant heart.

Our first reading
(Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4), is a lament that is as timeless as the troubles of today’s society. Habakkuk was writing during a time of tyranny and oppression. The evil and hardship of Habakkuk's complaint is not unlike our own today, as we struggle to understand God's ways in dealing with our ways. God's response to Habakkuk is one of patience and faith. The vision God refers to is the promise of Salvation. Only those who trust and have faith will persevere. 


How long, O LORD?  I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous  discord. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Our Epistle reading (2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14) is from one of St. Paul’s letters from prison to his disciple Timothy, offering words of encouragement as Timothy continues with the pastoral work begun by Paul. This is a work accomplished through the gifts of power, love and self-control that come only from God. This is a letter taken to heart by priests as a guide to being a pastor. We too, in our baptismal role as priest, prophet and king, can take it to heart.

Beloved: I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.


In our Gospel reading (Luke 17:5-10), we hear an exchange between the apostles and Jesus that, at first reading, sounds strange. To their request for increased faith, Jesus told them even a small amount of faith can move mountains. But then he told them in a seemingly disconnected passage, they should be as slaves, seeking no reward for their service. What he was really telling them was that they will find their faith in service to others. Jesus was the living example of the selfless servant who's service is its own reward. Our task is simply to do our duty, do what God asks of us. That is our faith.

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would  say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here immediately and take your place at table'? Would he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished'? Is he grateful to that servant  because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"


Jesus' instruction that we must be like slaves, simply doing our duty, may make more sense when we consider his own words, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28). He may be telling us that faith is realized through service and service is its own reward. He taught us this not only by his words but by his life. It is the life he calls us to live. Our faith is our duty.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 29, 2019

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

“But You, Man Of God, Pursue Righteousness”

Parable of the Rich Man and LazarusThis Sunday's readings warn against the “complacency” of hypocrisy and injustice. It is a continuation of last Sunday’s theme of warnings to those who profit at the expense of others. But we also hear in today’s Epistle what the solution is—pursue righteousness.

Our first reading this Sunday (Amos 6:1,4-7) is again from the Prophet Amos who prophesied at a time when Israel was enjoying great prosperity. This week's reading adds a blunt warning of woe to those whose life of excess made a mockery of their religion and the gifts God had given them. 

Thus says the LORD the God of hosts:  Woe to the complacent in Zion!  Lying upon beds of ivory,  stretched comfortably on their couches,  they eat lambs taken from the flock,  and calves from the stall!  Improvising to the music of the harp,  like David, they devise their own accompaniment.  They drink wine from bowls  and anoint themselves with the best oils;  yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!  Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,  and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.

In our Epistle reading from the end of St. Paul's first letter to Timothy (6:11-16), we hear how we should live our lives, in stark contrast to the characters in today’s first reading and Gospel. St. Paul always gives us concrete instruction and examples of how we are to live as disciples of Christ. 

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal  power.  Amen.

Our Gospel reading (Luke 16:19-31) builds on the theme of our first reading and brings it to its natural conclusion - the consequences of such a life of indifference to those in need. Jesus told a parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, how the tables were turned in the afterlife. The final words of the parable offer a prophetic assertion—those who are indifferent to the poor and ignore the warnings of the prophets will also ignore the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.'

Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

It is not evil to be rich. Wealth, regardless of its form, should be seen as a gift from God which will be multiplied when it is shared with others. Today’s warnings are to those who spend their wealth (monetary or otherwise) exclusively on themselves and do not share their gifts with others, especially those less fortunate. Our readings today beg the question, how do we steward our gifts and our wealth? Are we persuaded the one who rose from the dead?  

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 22, 2019

An Introduction to the Scripture Readings for
the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
“You Cannot Serve Both God And Mammon”

Today’s readings focus our attention on Justice—”the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor”(CCC #1807). A Just Person is one who does not lie, cheat or steal; one who lives in right relationship with God, neighbor and environment. Today, we are asked to choose, with whom are we in right relationship — God and neighbor or ourselves. We cannot choose both.

In our first reading
(Amos 8:4-7), the Prophet Amos calls out Israel for its trampling on the rights of the poor by cheating and stealing to enrich themselves. Their dishonest methods destroyed the poor while portraying themselves as righteous and holy. “Never will I forget a thing they have done!”, says the Lord.


Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! "When will the new moon be over," you ask, "that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!" The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!

In our Epistle reading (1 Timothy 2:1-8), we are reminded that God seeks salvation for all mankind and it is the Christian obligation to pray for everyone, including those in positions of power and leadership. That could never be more true than it is today.

Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time. For this I was appointed preacher and apostle — I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —, teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 16:1-3), Jesus praised the example of a dishonest steward who was prudent in protecting his own self-interest. Jesus seemed to be urging his followers to work as hard for the Kingdom of God as those with "dishonest wealth" worked for their own worldly goods. As disciples, we must choose—do we serve the wealth of this world or the “true wealth” of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, 'What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.' The steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.' He called in his master's debtors one by one. To the first he said, 'How much do you owe my master?' He replied, 'One hundred measures of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.' Then to another the steward said, 'And you, how much do you owe?' He replied, 'One hundred kors of wheat.' The steward said to him, 'Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.'

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. "For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon."


There is an old Bette Midler song called “From a Distance”. Its is about a world that from a distance seems to be in right relationship with itself and God—a world where all the right words are spoken of peace and hope but underneath, there is a world of bitterness, poverty and war. The bridge is, “God is watching us, from a distance.” The solution might just be to heed St. Paul’s admonition in today’s Epistle: that “prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.”

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 15, 2019

An Introduction to the Scripture Readings for
the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
“Your Brother Was Dead And Has Come To Life Again”

The readings for this Sunday demonstrate the unfathomable love our Father has for us and also teaches us about the love and forgiveness we should have for each other.

Our first reading 
(Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14) is a rather folksy tale of the Father's willingness to forgive the transgressions of his people. Moses had the audacity to present his case to God directly. God listened and responded with compassion. Would not he do the same for us?

The LORD said to Moses, "Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the  land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, 'This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!' "I see how stiff-necked this people is, " continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation."  But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, "Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?  . . . . So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Our Epistle reading from the First Letter to Timothy
(1 Tim 1:12-17) is yet another example of God's mercy and forgiveness, this time to Paul who was once a persecutor of Christians. It was this persecutor that God chose to deliver the Gospel to the Gentile world.

Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Our Gospel reading 
(Luke 15:1-32) is a collection of three parables, each demonstrating the lengths to which the Father will seek out and rejoice over even one lost sheep. Once the lost one is found, the great joy must be shared. First, (omitted here because of space) Jesus tells the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Lastly, is the well known parable of the Prodigal Son. The unforgiving “good” son is as much the point of the story as the Father’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. 

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. . . . He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”


So, after these three readings, there should be no doubt — God loves us immeasurably and looks for any and every opportunity to draw us back to him, forgive us and rejoice at our repentance. How do we know this? The bible tells us so.
 

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 8, 2019

An Introduction to the Scripture Readings for
the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
“Anyone Who Does Not Renounce All His Possessions
Cannot Be My Disciple”

This Sunday's scripture readings ask us to consider the cost of true discipleship. Like a builder before starting work, we should consider the cost and the resources needed for that task. Our first reading gives us a glimpse into one of the resources available to us—the Wisdom of God.

In our first reading 
(Wisdom 9:13-18), we hear about the unfathomable wisdom of God. It is an excerpt from “Solomon’s Prayer” wherein Solomon asked God to “Give me wisdom”. He knows that even the things of this world are little understood. And yet, the things of God are so much more beyond our understanding. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we discern any of it. This reading helps set the tone for our Gospel reading; this is the supreme God whom Jesus tells us must be before all else. 

Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?  For the deliberations of mortals are timid,  and unsure are our plans.  For the corruptible body burdens the soul  and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.  And scarce do we guess the things on earth,  and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;  but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?  Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom  and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

In our Epistle reading from the Letter of St. Paul to Philemon 
(9-10, 12-17), St. Paul gives us an example of the cost of discipleship. Paul is writing from his “imprisonment for the Gospel” in a Roman jail. Paul sends Onesimus, a former runaway slave, back to his master Philemon. Baptized, Onesimus is now "more than a slave, a brother" in Christ.

I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

In our Gospel reading 
(Luke 14:25-33), Jesus cautioned the crowds following him to consider the cost of discipleship before following him. It is not for the weak of heart. Jesus outlined three requirements of discipleship.  The first is that Jesus must come before everyone else in our lives—even our own family. Jesus used the words “hate” one’s family in the Hebrew context that more closely means “to love less”—we must love Jesus more than everyone else. The second requirement is that we must take up our cross and walk the walk that Jesus walks, bearing our suffering in union with his. The third is complete detachment - from all our possessions and worldly desires. They become an anchor weighing us down and keeping us from Jesus.

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”


Imagine telling God, “I’m sorry God, but my family comes before you” - or my wealth or my possessions or my hopes and dreams or desires. What Jesus may really be telling us is, whomever you love, love me more; whatever you love, detach yourself and love me more. As we see in our first reading, with the gift wisdom from the Holy Spirit, "thus were the paths of those on earth made straight." 

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 1, 2019

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

“My Child, Conduct Your Affairs With Humility”

Our readings for this Sunday focus our attention on humility and service to those who have no ability to repay.

In our first reading (Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29), we hear from one of the last books of the Old Testament, written by a man named Jeshua, ben Sira. It is a book of wisdom and moral teachings. In this passage, ben Sira extolls the virtues of humility and alms giving. The proud and the haughty will not find favor with God.

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,  and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,  and you will find favor with God.  What is too sublime for you, seek not,  into things beyond your strength search not.  The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,  and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.  Water quenches a flaming fire,  and alms atone for sins.

Our Epistle reading (Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24), is a study in contrast between the Mosaic Covenant that stressed the “gloomy darkness” of a fearsome God and the New Covenant of Christ, based on the justice of a loving God.  We have approached the heavenly Jerusalem with Jesus as our mediator.

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them. No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Our Gospel reading (Luke 14:1,7-14), is a parable on humility and service. Jesus seems to have been echoing the words of Sirach, “Humble yourselves the more, the greater you are.” Jesus also suggested rather than invite those of your own station, invite the poor and the lame, those who have no ability to repay you.

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to  this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."  Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite  your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Today’s readings on humility seem to be a good definition of the beatitude, “Poor in Spirit.” It is the opposite of pride. It is the state of being that Jesus calls us to. Humility and service to others go hand-in-hand. It is in those we serve that we find Jesus; it is in our humility that Jesus finds us.

Read and reflect on this Sunday’s full readings at www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090119.cfm

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 25, 2019

The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

“Behold,  Some Are Last Who Will Be first”

Narrow GateOur scripture readings for this Sunday focus our attention on the end times, the final gathering of Israel and the nations into the New Jerusalem. God’s mercy and invitation will call all peoples (Israelites and Gentiles) into relationship with him. Even so said Jesus, all who enter must enter through the “narrow gate”; thus it will not be easy.

In our first reading from the end of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 65:18-21), we hear a final prophesy of Isaiah to uplift the Jews were returning to Jerusalem from exile. God will gather “nations of every language” (Gentiles) to see his glory. He will then send them out to gather all the lost people of Israel and bring them back. Some of these Gentiles, God will even take as priests.

Thus says the LORD: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the LORD in clean vessels. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.

In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13), the author instructs his readers (and us) that their current trials can be seen as a form of training, or discipline from a loving father for the purpose of future peace and righteousness. Rather than losing heart, we should endure our trails with courage as a form of “discipline.”

Brothers and sisters, You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: "My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges." Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as sons. For what "son" is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 13:22:30), Jesus taught a stern message to his followers - those who were initially called but who reject God shall, by their own actions, be denied entry into the Kingdom; while those from afar (Gentiles) who do accept God will be welcomed to the table of the Master. Thus “some are last who will be first.”

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from. And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!' And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

There are many messages that can be gleaned from today’s readings, but here are three: 1) God’s invitation to relationship with him is universal—all people and all nations will be gathered into his glory; 2) Those who go through life just going through the motions, paying lip service to their faith and relationship with God, may find themselves on the outside looking in; and 3), rather than disdain and turning away from God, we should embrace our trials and difficulties as an opportunity to more closely unite with our suffering Jesus, keeping our eyes on the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” that will surely come.

 Read and reflect on this Sunday's Scripture Readings at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090119.cfm

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - August 18, 2019

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Times

Keep Our Eyes “Fixed On Jesus”

All three readings this Sunday explore the cost of being a disciple of the Lord. In our first reading, we hear the cost visited upon Jeremiah for speaking the truth God commanded him to speak. In the Gospel reading, Jesus prepares his disciples the division that will surely come their way. Just as in the days of old, we also will encounter division in the name of Jesus. In our Epistle, we hear how we are to live out God’s call.A

In our first reading (Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10), we hear the story of how King Zedehiah, at the urging of the court princes, sent Jeremiah to a certain death; and then at the urging of the court eunuch Ebed-melech, reversed himself and rescued Jeremiah. Jeremiah was following God’s call “to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build up and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)
 
In those days, the princes said to the king: "Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin." King Zedekiah answered: "He is in your power"; for the king could do nothing with them. And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.
 
Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: "My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food  in the city." Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 12:1-4), the author of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus had a purpose for how “he endured the opposition from sinners.” - “in order that we may not grow weary and lose heart.”
 
Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 12:49-53), Jesus used the symbol of fire to illustrate the division the Word of God might bring. Fire was often used as a metaphor for cleansing and purification, even the presence of God. Jesus made clear to his followers that many will turn away from the Word of God and there will be division, even within families. 
 
Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
 
The way of the disciple of Jesus is not an easy one. We are called to speak truth when the world seeks darkness. We are called to live this truth regardless of how others receive it. We are called to be witnesses by our actions as well as our words. We do this “for the sake of the joy” that lies before us. And how are we to do this? Today’s Epistle tells us how: “Rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us . . . and persevere in running the race that lies before us by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

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