St. Rita Roman Catholic Church
1008 Maple Dr.
Webster, NY 14580
585-671-1100
Masses: Sat 5:00 pm
Sun 7:30; 9:00 (children's liturgy); 10:30 am
Mon-Fri 8:15 am
Reconciliation: Saturdays from 3:30-4:30 pm;
Wednesdays after morning Mass (about 8:45)
Office Hours: M-Th 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Fri 9:00 to 12:00 pm

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - 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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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 28, 2019

The Second Sunday of Easter

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Christ is Risen!
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
Whose sins you retain are retained.”
We now enter into the Easter Season, the 50 day period between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. Our readings during this holy season are not the normal fare for Sundays. Our first readings are taken from the Acts of the Apostles and highlight the development and spread of the early Christian Church under the fearless leadership of the apostles and St. Paul. The second readings are taken from the Book of Revelation. This book uses symbolic language to describe the end times and the ultimate impact Jesus’ death and resurrection has on eternity. The Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of John. We hear of the many times Jesus appeared to his disciples before his ascension and also, some of the key teachings of Jesus to his disciples.
 
In today’s first reading, (Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16), we hear of the may signs and wonders done by the apostles. Great numbers of people were converted. And we are reminded of the primacy of the Peter, our first Pope, as just his shadow was considered a blessing to people passing by.
 
Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's portico. None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
 
In our second reading (Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19), we hear one of John’s visions where he is called to testify to the risen Jesus and his final judgement and rule on the “Lord’s Day” (the final day of judgement). John wrote in a time of distress and persecution and sought to give encouragement to those suffering in the name of Jesus.
 
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, "Write on a scroll what you see." Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.
 
When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards."
 
Our Gospel reading (John 20:19-31) tells of the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the evening of the first day after the resurrection. Jesus entered the locked room and said,
 
"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." Thomas was absent at the time, but on hearing of Jesus’ appearance, said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
 
One week later, Jesus appeared again through the locked door; this time Thomas was with them. Jesus stood in their midst and said to them,
 
"Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
 
During this 50 day celebration of the Easter event, the Church gives us this time to rejoice, to reflect and to pray on "What just happened" in Christ's painful death and glorious resurrection. In a sense, this is a “joyous Lent”, where we are filled with Joy at the love and forgiveness God has for us. And may we say, as did Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” 
  • CLICK HERE to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for this Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Christ is Risen!
WHY DO YOU SEEK THE LIVING ONE AMONG THE DEAD? .... HE IS NOT HERE BUT HE HAS BEEN RAISED.
 
Readings for Easter Vigil on Saturday
Our Vigil Mass features four Old Testament readings that highlight many of the key moments in salvation history as well as a reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans and a Gospel reading of St. Luke’s account of Easter morning.
 
Our first reading is the creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:2)"In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss . . . ." God created our world as we know it in a methodical, logical order ending by creating man and woman in his image. God gave man stewardship over all of God’s creation.
 
The second reading is the story of God testing Abraham with the sacrifice of his only son (Genesis 22:1-18). Note the corollary between Abraham and Isaac and God the Father and Jesus. Isaac, like Jesus, must carry the instrument of his death on his shoulders. "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust. . . ."
 
The third reading is the story of God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape the Egyptians (Genesis 14:15 - 15:1). Moses prefigures Jesus leading us out of slavery to sin into new life. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two. . . .'"  
 
The fourth reading is the prophesy of the Prophet Isaiah near the end of the Jewish people’s exile in Babylon (Isaiah 55:1-11). Isaiah looks forward to the day of liberation, "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!"  
 
In our Epistle reading (Romans 6:3-11), St. Paul teaches us that as we also died with Christ, so too, we will receive new life in Christ, "We are indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.,"
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 24:1-12), St. Luke writes how the women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. They found the stone rolled away and Jesus' tomb empty, "...but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised."
 
Readings for Easter Sunday Morning
  The Easter morning readings are shorter and focus more succinctly on Jesus' resurrection. The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 10:34, 37-43) and is an excerpt of Peter's speech to the household of Cornelius. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaimed the risen Christ,
 
"You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. . . They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, . . . He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."
 
The Gospel reading (John 20:1-9) is St. John's telling of the events on Easter morning. Again, as in Luke’s Gospel, a woman was the first to witness the Resurrection. Note the deference given to Peter as the leader of the apostles.
 
"Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them . . .They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter . . .When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head . . .For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead"
 
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song" -- Pope St. John Paul II
  • CLICK HERE Read, reflect and pray on the Easter Vigil readings
  • CLICK HERE Read, reflect and pray on the Easter Morning readings

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

Palm Sunday

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
This Palm Sunday begins our Easter Holy Week as we walk with Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem—his triumphant entry into the city, his passion and death and, as we Christians know, his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. On Holy Thursday, we will commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet. At it’s conclusion, Jesus will ask, “Do you realize what I have done for you? . . . I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:12, 15) Then on Good Friday, we will hear the Passion of our Lord. As Jesus draws his last breath on the cross, he utters, “’It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over his spirit.” (John 19:30)
 
In our first reading for Palm Sunday (Isaiah 50:4-7), we hear part of Isaiah's lament of the suffering servant, which so fittingly foretells the passion that Jesus will endure. Persecuted for his righteousness, he does not flinch. “My back I gave to those who beat me . . . my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”
 
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not is graced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 2:6-11), St. Paul reminds us of the humility of Jesus, the meek and humble servant, coming in human likeness. Because of this, Jesus is greatly exalted by the Father.
 
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 
Our Gospel reading (Luke 22:14 - 23:56) is St. Luke's account of the passion and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. He then stressed with his disciples the importance of servant leadership, “Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.”Jesus forewarns Peter of his coming denial. After supper, Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.
 
Then came his betrayal by Judas, his arrest and trial before Pilate, Peter’s denial, and his violent scourging, mockery and crucifixion. As he hung, dying on the cross, he pleaded with his Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” At his death, Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
 
Lent is a time for reflection. We urge you to take the time in prayer to read Luke’s full Gospel account of the passion before attending Mass so that you may more fully enter into the mystery of our Lord's gift of self to us.
 
May we not pass this opportunity to reflect deeply on the mystery of God's salvation gift to his beloved and our response to that gift.
 
  • CLICK HERE for the readings for Holy Thursday Mass
  • CLICK HERE for the readings for Good Friday Service
  • CLICK HERE for the readings for Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday
  • CLICK HERE for the readings for Easter Sunday Masses

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Reading - April 7, 2019

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
NEITHER DO I CONDEMN YOU. GO, AND FROM NOW ON DO NOT SIN ANY MORE.
 
Our Lenten readings seem to get richer and richer. There are many themes that could be gleaned from this Sunday's readings but one could be this: What's happened in the past is but rubbish compared to what glories are to come for those who are faithful.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 43:16-21), Isaiah prepares the Jews for the day of release from captivity in Babylon, saying it will even eclipse the great Exodus. "Remember not the things of the past." But Isaiah's prophesy goes far beyond Babylon and points to the coming of the New Jerusalem.
 
Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 8:1-11), we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery. It is perhaps one of the most intimate and tender stories of Jesus' healing forgiveness - that singular moment when Jesus bends down and asks, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" It should be noted that Jesus did not condone her behavior but admonished her to sin no more. In keeping with our theme from the first reading, Jesus seems to be saying, "Think not of the things of the past (you are forgiven), go now into the future of my truth and my light."
 
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 3:8-14), St. Paul continues our theme of forgetting what has gone before (considering it so much rubbish) while concentrating on gaining Christ and being found in him.
 
Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
 
In reflecting on our Gospel reading and the woman about to be stoned for her sins, may we consider that in some ways, She is Us! We are the ones who come to Jesus in our sinfulness and sorrow. It is Jesus who says, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." In today's words from St. Paul's Epistle, we forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead, continuing our pursuit toward the goal. There is no better place to physically hear those words, "I absolve you of your sins (neither do I condemn you)", than in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - every Wednesday at 8:45 am and every Friday from 3:30 to 4:30 pm.
 
  • Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 31, 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
MY SON . . . WE MUST CELEBRATE AND REJOICE, BECAUSE YOUR BROTHER WAS DEAD AND HAS COME TO LIFE AGAIN.
 
This Sunday, our Lenten readings remind us of God's extravagant love throughout salvation history. Our readings are about reconciliation - us to God and us to each other.
 
In our first reading (Joshua 5:9-12), the Israelites are spending their first day in the promised land, at Gilgal. Their weary years in the desert, eating manna, are behind them. It is now Passover in the promised land. God has removed the reproach of Egypt; now they eat of the land of Canaan.
 
The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth of the month. On the day after the Passover, they ate of the produce of the land in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain. On that same day after the Passover, on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.
 
In our Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), St. Paul teaches us that we are a new creation as God reconciles us to himself in Christ. Similar to the Israelites celebrating their first Passover in the promised land, our old selves have passed away and we are a new creation. We are now called to share that blessing with the world.
 
Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
 
Our Gospel reading (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) is the parable of the Prodigal Son. The word "prodigal" means "having or giving something on a lavish scale" or "spending resources freely, wastefully extravagant." In this sense, it could be the parable of the Prodigal Father, over-the-top extravagant in his love. Or it could be the parable of the Two Brothers - one craving forgiveness and the other unable to give it.
 
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “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 called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. 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.’”
 
Which of the three characters in the parable can we identify with? Certainly, we can all identify with the repentant son - we've all been there at one time or another. But can we ever identify with the older brother, unforgiving of his father and his brother? Perhaps sometimes we can. Or can we ever identify with the extravagant loving father? Perhaps sometimes we can, or at least we should desire to. Perhaps, at times, we are all three. Lent is a time for reflection.
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 24, 2019

The Third Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
BUT I TELL YOU, IF YOU DO NOT REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH AS THEY DID.
 
The readings for our Lenten journey this Sunday help us to look back to the beginnings of God's mercy in the call and commission of Moses, then to the unfaithfulness of the Israelites wandering in the desert and finally to a call to repentance by Jesus and a reminder of God's patience to give us yet another season to repent.
 
In our first reading (Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15), God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to go to the Israelites and lead them to freedom. For the first time in recorded Scripture, God identified himself by his proper name, "I AM who AM." Translated in Hebrew, this is "Yahweh". This name was so sacred, it was usually substituted with "YHWH", or "Elohim" (God) or "Adonai" (Lord).
 
Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.”
 
When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, “ he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
 
Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. “This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12), St. Paul tells the Christians in Corinth how the Israelite's experience in the Exodus prefigured their own salvation in Christ. Their "ancestors" ate and drank of the spiritual food and drink in the desert, prefiguring the Christ who nourishes us in his body and blood. However the Israelites rebelled and most were struck down. We should heed their example as a warning and "take care not to fall."
 
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
 
These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.
 
In our Gospel reading,(Luke 13:1-9) we hear a two-part message by Jesus. First, a reminder that we all must repent or perish. Secondly, our God is a patient God, giving us yet another opportunity to repent. Just as in the parable of the barren fig tree, the owner waited one more season to see if it would bear fruit before he would cut it down.
 
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"
 
And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'"
 
The owner of the barren fig tree is God; the gardener is Jesus; the fig tree is us. This is our time to repent; to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. This is our time to reflect on the sins of our past and follow Christ's example of love, compassion and faithfulness.
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 17, 2019

The Second Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
THIS IS MY CHOSEN SON; LISTEN TO HIM.
 
As we continue our Lenten journey of an inward look at our lives, we also contemplate the awesome glory of Christ coming in his glorified body at Easter. In our readings this Sunday, we look at two manifestations of our awesome God - the sacred covenant God formed with Abraham and the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Thabor. Both are full of rich mystical symbolism.
 
In our first reading (Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18), we hear of Abram's (Abraham before his name was changed) encounter with God as God promised him numerous descendants and also gave him the Promised Land. At Abram's questioning, God and Abram enter into a sacred covenant using an ancient covenantal ritual to establish an unbreakable bond. Much like the disciples in our Gospel reading, Abram was enveloped in a "deep, terrifying darkness".
 
The Lord God took Abram outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so," he added, "shall your descendants be." Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness. He then said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession." "O Lord GOD," he asked, "how am I to know that I shall possess it?" He answered him, "Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon." Abram brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.
 
When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates."
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 9:28-36) we hear the awesome story of the Transfiguration. Jesus led his chosen three disciples up the mountain and was transfigured before their eyes as he revealed his glory. They "became frightened" at the sight but then wanted to build tents and savor the moment. There is rich symbolism in this experience, as Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets of Israel. They discussed Jesus’ “exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem”, thus connecting all of Jewish salvation history to the final exodus of freedom from sin and death through the cross and resurrection.
 
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. 
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 3:17 - 4:1), Saint Paul writes how Jesus will change our bodies to conform with his "glorified body". We are no longer mere earthly beings but citizens of heaven as we “await our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their "shame." Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord. 
 
Fear and trembling, darkness and clouds were often used in the Bible to represent the awe and wonder of an encounter with God. Many of us have had some type of direct encounter with God that has left us filled with awe and wonder. We may want to savor the moment, but rather than stay in that moment indefinitely, we come down from the mountain and go about living our daily lives, just differently.
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 10, 2019

The First Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD, YOUR GOD, TO THE TEST.
 
Our Lenten journey has begun. It is a journey of looking inward, one of fasting, prayer, and alms giving. It is a journey we take toward the Father, walking with Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit.
 
In our first reading (Deuteronomy 25:4-10) Moses spoke to the Israelites at the end of their 40 years of wandering in the desert. He instituted the ancient harvest ritual of retelling the story of their ancestors' affliction and God's delivery from their slavery by the Egyptians. It was to be performed each year as part of the harvest festival. In many ways, we memorialize these same stories in our liturgies today.  
 
"Moses spoke to the people, saying: "The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God, 'My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me.' And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence."
 
Our Gospel reading this Sunday (Luke 4:1-13) is the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, just before his public ministry. After a period of 40 days of prayer and fasting, Jesus was spiritually enriched but physically weak and hungry. And enter then the devil to tempt him in his time of weakness. Jesus' temptation and struggle were real but his triumph over the evil one is the perfection we all strive for and the example we follow.
 
"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.' Jesus answered him, 'It is written, One does not live on bread alone. Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, 'I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.' Jesus said to him in reply, 'It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve. Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.' Jesus said to him in reply, 'It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. 'When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time."
 
In our Epistle reading (Romans 10:8-13), Saint Paul instructs us that salvation is a two-part process. It is a process of the believing in our heart and of confessing with our mouth. Both are necessary.
 
"Brothers and sisters: What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart --that is, the word of faith that we preach -, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
 
May we use these 40 days as an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus and nourish our hearts.
 
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