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 - 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.
  • Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings

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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.
 
  • Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 3, 2019

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
PRAISE NO ONE BEFORE HE SPEAKS, FOR IT IS THEN THAT PEOPLE ARE TESTED.
 
Our readings this Sunday remind us that our speech is a reflection of the goodness in our heart. It is a reflection of our upbringing and of the care we have for others. Our Gospel teaches us, "Every tree is known by its own fruit."
 
In our first reading (Sirach 27:4-7), the wise sage Yeshua ben Sira reminds us that our faults appear when we speak. Our speech discloses the bent of our mind.
 
When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one's faults when one speaks. As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 6:39-45), we hear the conclusion of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain. Here, Jesus speaks about the blind leading the blind, not judging others and looking inward at our own failings rather than outward at the faults of others.
 
Jesus told his disciples a parable, "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.
 
"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:54-58), St. Paul teaches us that the sting of sin is death, but through Christ Jesus, God gives us victory. We must remain firm and steadfast in our faith, fully devoted to the work of the Lord..
 
Brothers and sisters: When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
 
We who speak ill of others, judge others harshly while ignoring our own faults reflect the sadness of our own hearts. As Jesus said in our Gospel, it is like the blind leading the blind. In the words of Fr. Eugene Lobo, "Instead of criticizing others, it would do a world of good if we cared for them."
 
  • Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 24, 2019

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
GIVE TO EVERYONE WHO ASKS OF YOU
 
Our readings this Sunday ask us to do the unthinkable, the nearly impossible - to "do good to those who hate you." It is an act only God is capable of (or those acting in the image of God). This is what Jesus commands us to do in today's Gospel.
 
In our first reading (1 Samuel 26:2,7-9, 12-13, 22-23), we hear excerpts from the fascinating story of young David, who is being pursued by his former patron, King Saul. Saul and his army are trying to kill David. David stumbles on the opportunity to slay his would-be killer. He does not, recognizing him as "the Lord's anointed." In short, he does good to he who hates him, blesses he who persecutes him.
 
In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David in the desert of Ziph. So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him.
 
Abishai whispered to David: “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!” But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?” So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head, and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening. All remained asleep, because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.
 
Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops. He said: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it. The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the LORD’s anointed.”
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 6:27-38), we hear a continuation of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain that began in last Sunday's Gospel reading. Here, Jesus lays out what it is to be a follower of Christ, in the image of God. Imagine how counter-cultural his words were to those who heard him; how counter-cultural they are even today.
 
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
 
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:45-49) St. Paul contrasts (the first) Adam with the last (or second) Adam (Jesus). The first is from the earth, the natural world and the second Adam, Jesus, is from the spiritual world - the image of the heavenly one. It is this image that Jesus calls us to be in today's Gospel.
 
Brothers and sisters: It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven. As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
 
Have you ever given a gift to someone and not received a thank-you? Were you offended? If the gift was truly given in the spirit of today's Gospel, with no expectation of return, there would not be offense, only love. The gifts given to us by God are not only with no expectation of return, it would be impossible for us to reciprocate with God. He gives purely because he loves us, over and over again. We are called to live in his image. This is, in the words of Bishop Robert Baron, "loving with a supernaturalized love." In the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, "To give and not to count the cost."
 
  • Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings
  • Click HERE to read Marie Marton's article on Loving Our Enemies

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 17, 2019

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
BLESSED ARE YOU WHO ARE POOR, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS YOURS.
 
Our readings this Sunday tell us that with the Kingdom of God, up is down and down is up. The poor are rich and the rich are poor. Put your trust in man and you will like a "barren bush in the desert." Put your trust in God and you are like a "tree planted beside the waters."
 
In our first reading (Jeremiah 17:5-8), the prophet Jeremiah was preaching against the king and his leadership who were seeking the protection of other nations rather than the protection of God. "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.".
 
Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 6:17, 20-26), we hear a similar dichotomy presented by Jesus. It is an excerpt from Jesus' Sermon on the Plain known as the four blessings and the four woes. It is a message completely counter-cultural to the thinking of the day. Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. Jesus makes clear that the Kingdom of God will be found with the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the outcast.
 
Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
 
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12, 16-20), St. Paul resents us with another clear choice - Do we believe that Christ rose from the dead, or don't we. If we don't, we are "the most pitiable people of all."
 
Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
 
Often in life, we are presented with binary choices -- Do you put your trust in God or do you trust in men; Are you detached from the things of this world or do you cling to your wealth and possessions; Do you believe Christ rose from the dead or don't you; Do you believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or don't you. We who are Catholic Christians are defined by our choices. And our choices define our actions; and our actions define our destiny. Straddling the fence is not a luxury we have.
 
Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 10, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
"HERE I AM", I SAID, "SEND ME"
 
Our readings this Sunday remind us that God does not call us to mission because we are worthy or capable or talented. In fact, we are not. He calls us to cooperate with his Grace, because he love us and wants us to be like him. Today, we hear the call of both Isaiah and Simon (Peter). How similar they are.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 6:1-8), we hear Isaiah's description of his call by God in highly descriptive language. Isaiah's initial response to God was typical of the reluctant servant - I am not worthy, I am sinful, get someone else. Yet, God, in his Grace, did not regard his sinfulness; he sent him on a mission to speak God's word. Isaiah's response was yes, "send me."
 
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above. They cried one to the other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!" At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.
 
Then I said, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!"
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11), we hear about the call of Simon (Peter) by Jesus, with the miraculous catching of fish. Simon's response was similar to Isaiah's - "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.". Jesus did not see his sinfulness. He saw a loving leader of his disciples and of his Church. "Don't be afraid, from now on you will be catching men." Simon's acceptance was similar also to Isaiah's, "They left everything and followed him."
 
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets."
 
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), we don't hear about Paul's call, but we hear about the results of his acceptance. Like Isaiah and Simon, Paul saw himself as unworthy ("the least of the apostles"), and yet he accepted Jesus' call to preach the three cornerstone truths of our faith - Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again. And with God's grace, he was "not ineffective."
 
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
 
Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
 
How does all this apply to me, you might ask?
 
We, in our own way, are all Isaiah; we are all Simon; we are all Paul.
We are all unworthy, sinful people.
We are all called by God to bring to life some charism (gift of the Spirit).
With God's grace (not our own), we will accomplish God's will.
What are you waiting for?
 
Click HERE to read and pray on this Sunday's readings
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Readings - Feb. 3, 2019

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
NO PROPHET IS ACCEPTED IN HIS OWN NATIVE PLACE
 
One of the themes of this Sunday's readings is the rejection a messenger of God will suffer, especially in his hometown and among his own kind. And yet, those earnestly called by God will press on with love; and when rejected by their own, will take God's message to those of other nations.
 
In our first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19), we hear the call of Jeremiah - God's own words as he called him forth to be his messenger. God knew Jeremiah even before he was in the womb; and he knew of the suffering and rejection Jeremiah would endure. "'I am with you to deliver you', says the Lord."
 
The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judah's kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30), we pick up right where we left off last Sunday. Jesus proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah's messianic prophesy, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." After these words sunk in and they realized, this is the Jesus we grew up with, they were enraged. Jesus explained to them the history of the prophets, having been rejected, took their ministry to other nations. On hearing this, they were "filled with fury" and "rose up, drove him out of town." God delivered him, just as he delivered Jeremiah.
 
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'"
 
And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13), we hear St. Paul's famous discourse on love. Throughout, Paul uses the Greek word Agape, which is defined as the highest form of love; the love of God for man and man for God. It is often read at weddings.
 
Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
 
If one were to read today's Epistle and substitute the word "God" for every word "Love", and every word "it", we could get a sense of who God is - God IS Love. We would also get a sense of how we are in the image of God; for we have the capacity to love, the capacity to be like God. And as for the rejection we might receive along our way for being God's messenger - mere child's play to those who love - who completely will the good of the other. For the true servant heart is oblivious of the sacrifice.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Readings - January 27, 2019

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE PASSAGE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING
 
It could be said our readings this Sunday are about fresh starts, after a long absence. In our first reading, the Israelites recommit themselves to God's word as they seek to rebuild Jerusalem after their return from exile. In our Gospel reading, Jesus proclaims himself the long awaited fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy of the Messiah, caring for the weak and sick and proclaiming a year of favor of the Lord (a jubilee year of forgiveness and reinstatement).
 
In our first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10), the priest Ezra read and interpreted to the people the Law of God (the Torah that most had forgotten while in exile). Ezra and Nehemiah, the governor of Judea, proclaimed, "Today is holy to the Lord your God. . . Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks."
 
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it - for he was standing higher up than any of the people -; and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
 
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, "Amen, amen!" Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground. Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: "Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep"- for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: "Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21), we hear first, the opening of Luke's Gospel and then transition to chapter 4. Jesus went to the synagogue in his home town and read from the scroll of Isaiah. The passage was seen as a prophesy of the Messiah. Jesus manifests himself as the fulfillment of that passage; He is the Messiah.
 
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
 
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-30), we hear a continuation of last Sunday's Epistle (many gifts but one spirit). In this passage, the theme continues - we are all one body though we are many parts. It speaks to the wide diversity of callings from our God, each to serve a different aspect of the Church.
 
Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, " it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, " it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
 
But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you, " nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you." Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
 
Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
 
There are a number of themes in today's readings but the foremost is Jesus' proclamation that he is indeed the Messiah, the Anointed One. The Gospel reading next Sunday continues this story as Jesus is rejected by the people of his own town and driven out of the temple. In many ways, our society still rejects Jesus and seeks to drive him out of our temples, our institutions and our hearts. May our heartfelt and passionate response to the word of God, like those who heard Ezra proclaiming the Law, seek to reestablish Jesus as the central focus of our lives and our world.  
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - January 20, 2019

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU
 
This Sunday, we begin what is called "Ordinary Time". The word "ordinary" does not mean normal or unimportant. In liturgy, it means ordered or numbered, from the Latin root ordinalis. It is the time between the high seasons of Christmas and Easter. And so, the readings for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time remind us that God's love for us is like a sacred marriage covenant, like a young man's love for his bride, exuberant, with an abundance of generosity.
 
Our first reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) is from a time when the Israelites were returning to Jerusalem after their long exile in Babylon. They were rebuilding their city of ruin. Isaiah's words gave them hope in the future, that God still loved them and would pour out his love upon them - "As a young man marries a virgin.".
 
For Zion's sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you "Forsaken," or your land "Desolate," but you shall be called "My Delight," and your land "Espoused." For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 2:1-11), we hear John describe the miracle of the wedding feast of Cana as the first of Jesus' "signs" or miracles. Jesus may have chosen this miracle and this setting to manifest his glory because of its corollary to the covenant relationship with God and for the overabundance of his love. Jesus could have made ordinary wine, but he chose to make the choicest wine. He could have made one jar, but he made six. It should also be noted, the trust his mother had in Jesus when she simply said, "Do whatever he tells you."
 
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter."
 
So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from - although the servers who had drawn the water knew -, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), St. Paul reminds us that God, through his Holy Spirit, is the giver of all gifts. Each one of us has (at least) one spiritual gift from the Spirit, to be used in service to God and others. The gifts are all different as the Spirit chooses, "but one and the same Spirit produces all of these."
 
Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
 
Imagine if we lived in a town with all gas stations and no grocery stores or drug stores. How difficult life would be if God only gave one type of spiritual gift. We should rejoice and give thanks for the wide variety charisms the Spirit gives to his loved ones. It is the mosaic that portrays the image of a God so in love with his chosen ones that, "As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you." And so what shall we do? Do whatever he tells you.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Readings - January 13, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON, WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED.
 
Today's celebration of the Baptism of the Lord marks the conclusion of the miracle of Christmas. God entered humanity at Jesus' birth and now again, God enters into humanity in his baptism. Jesus stood in line with sinners to be baptized by John. "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." (1 cor 5:21).
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7), we hear the first of four "servant songs of Isaiah". Four peoms seen by the early Church and ever since to refer to the Christ. In this first poem, it is God's selection of the Servant who would be a "covenant of the people, a light for the nations."
 
Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
 
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22), we hear of the baptism of Jesus, what happened before and what happened after. John proclaims "one mightier than I is coming". After Jesus is baptized and praying, the Father and the Spirit make known their participation in this event. From this point on, Jesus will baptize with the "Holy Spirit and fire", preaching, teaching and healing.
 
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
 
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
 
In our Epistle reading (Acts 10:34-38), we hear an excerpt of a speech given by St. Peter to a Gentile Centurian, Cornelius, as he was about to baptize him. Peter tells how Jesus, from his baptism by John, was anointed by the Holy Spirit and went about doing good and healing. This baptism is now open to all peoples.
 
Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, 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. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
 
In our readings today, we are reminded that Baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit. We are reminded of our own baptism - our own anointing by the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet and king. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, "doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil." This is a mission we would have no ability to do except by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
 
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