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-Thurs 8:15 am
Reconciliation: Saturdays from 3:30-4:30 pm
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 - November 19, 2017

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Parable of the Talents 
(Matthew 25:14-30)
 
WELL DONE, MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT 
This is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time in our liturgical year. As we begin to prepare for Advent, the Church seeks to turn our thoughts to the return of the Master and the final judgement.
 
Our first reading (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31) is an excerpt from an alphabetical acrostic poem spoken by a queen mother to her son, King Lemuel. The longer version of the poem is an admonition of chastity, prudence and justice. Today's portion of the poem can be described as 'the virtuous woman' or the 'ideal wife'.
 
When one finds a worthy wife,  
her value is far beyond pearls. 
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, 
has an unfailing prize. 
She brings him good, and not evil, 
all the days of her life. 
She obtains wool and flax 
and works with loving hands. 
She puts her hands to the distaff, 
and her fingers ply the spindle. 
She reaches out her hands to the poor, 
and extends her arms to the needy. 
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; 
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
Give her a reward for her labors, 
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6), St. Paul reminds his readers that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. He tells them (and us) not to live in fear but to live always prepared for the day the Lord will come.
 
Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, "Peace and security, " then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
 
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.
 
Our Gospel reading (Matthew 25:14-30) is a metaphor for the final judgement when the Master will return and call us to account for the gifts (talents) that he has given us. In today's parable, the master goes on a journey and gives three servants a number of talents (a sum of money). Two of the servants have put their talents to good use and are praised. The third buried his talents out of fear and is severely chastised.
 
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.
 
After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.' His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"
 
The day will surely come when we will all be called to account for how we have made use of our lives and the gifts God has given to us. Even though we know not the hour, we who live in the light have nothing to fear. "Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober." When our day of judgement comes, may the Lord say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant"; and like the virtuous woman in our first reading, may "her works praise her at the city gates."
  
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 12, 2017

The Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) 
 
THEREFORE, STAY AWAKE, FOR YOU KNOW NEITHER THE DAY NOR THE HOUR 

Our readings this Sunday speak to us about the need to be always ready -- for the end of our own life as well as for the end of times when the bridegroom (Jesus) will come in the night. Our readings contrast the wise with the foolish.

Our first reading (Wisdom 6:12-16) presents the Wisdom God in the feminine sense. Thomas Merton calls it Hagia Sohpia (Greek for Holy Wisdom). Merton says, "She is God-given and God himself as Gift. Sophia in all things is the Divine Life reflected in them." Today's reading is a beautiful poetic depiction of the presence of God as "resplendent and unfading" and "found by those who seek her."

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.
 
Our Gospel reading (Matthew 25:1-13) presents the parable of the ten virgins, representing the Kingdom of God at the final judgement. Five of the virgins were wise and the other five were foolish in not having enough lamp oil for when the bridegroom comes. 

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

In our Epistle reading (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), we learn that hope is not a wish, it is an expectation, founded in our faith and the love that Jesus has for us and us for him.
St. Paul gives us hope in two things: That Christ will come again and that we (and those who have fallen asleep) will rise with him into a new life eternal.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

It is not that the wise virgins were selfish IN not wanting to share the oil from their lamps. It can be said that the oil represents all the good works of mercy and justice and faithfulness required of believers. These good works are not transferable. They can only be acquired by each person through individual acts of love. When the Lord comes at the end of our own life, will we have enough oil in our lamp, enough good works stored to light our way to eternity? This truly separates the wise from the foolish.
  
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 5, 2017

The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Jesus Denounces the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23)
 
WHOEVER EXALTS HIMSELF WILL BE HUMBLED; BUT WHOEVER HUMBLES  HIMSELF WILL BE EXALTED. 

Our readings this Sunday caution us to lead others by example, with humility and meekness.

In our first reading (Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10), the prophet speaks on behalf of God telling the priests of Israel that they have violated the covenant of their fathers by leading the people astray. God gives them a stern warning to listen to him. 

A great King am I, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 23:1-12), Jesus gave a similar rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees, saying they preach but do not practice and lay heavy burdens on the people's shoulders without any help from them. What they do, they do for show.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.' As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13), St. Paul gives us an example opposite that of the Pharisees, by practicing what he preached, serving the people out of love. Instead of laying heavy burdens like the Pharisees, he and his companions were "gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children."
 
Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.
 
One lesson we might take from today's readings is that we too are called to keep the "covenant of our fathers" and lead others to Christ by our living example and our love. We can find no better example than Jesus himself and also, St. Paul and his companions. May we act with meekness and humility, giving of "our very selves" to others.
 
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 29, 2017

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
 
YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD . . . YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.
 
This Sunday's readings are all about being in Right Relationship (Love) - with God and with our neighbor. 

In our first reading (Exodus 22:20-26), we hear part of the Covenant Code, wherein God instructed Moses how the Israelites were to live in right covenant relationship with God and one-another. Particular emphasis was placed on the refugee (alien), the widow and the orphan - the most vulnerable of society.

Thus says the LORD: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. "If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 22:34-40), we hear yet another test of Jesus, although this time with possibly a more sincere motive. In answer to the test question, Jesus condensed all 613 commands found in the Torah into two. In a sense, representing the two tablets of the 10 commandments.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10), St. Paul reminds us that we are to be imitators of Jesus and of the Saints that have gone before us - with joy, even in affliction. This is how our faith is transmitted from one generation to the next.

Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Love is not a passive word, it connotes action. It is easy to love when there is little cost. That's not the love we are called to. It is to love completely with our entire being; it is to love joyfully "even in great affliction". This is how God loves us and it is how he asks us to love him and one another.
 
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 22, 2017

The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Paying Taxes to the Emperor
(Matthew 22:15-21) 
 
"I AM THE LORD, THERE IS NO OTHER."

Today's readings remind us that God is the Lord of the universe, subjecting all kings and principalities to himself. "There is no God besides me", says the Lord.

In our first reading (Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6), God speaks to the Persian King Cyrus the Great, whom God caused to release the Jewish people from captivity in Babylon, though Cyrus did not know God.

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other.
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 22:15-21), the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus into either speaking against Caesar or against God. He turned the tables on them, giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.  
 
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax." Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." 
 
In our Epistle reading (Thessalonians 1:1-5), we hear from the beginning of Paul's letter to the church in Thessalonica. In this brief opening prayer and greeting, we hear very distinctly, the three persons of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also hear the earliest mention in Christian literature of the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.    
 
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.  
 
If we consider that the currency of Caesar bears his image and inscription (the Roman coin), what then might be the currency of God - what bear's God's image, what belongs to God? Perhaps it is we, who are created in the image and likeness of God, whose inscription is written upon our hearts. We are the coins that bear God's image and inscription. "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." 
 
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 15, 2017g

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
 
BEHOLD, I HAVE PREPARED MY BANQUET

This Sunday, our readings focus on the great banquet, which is the traditional symbol for the final salvation. 

In our first reading (Isaiah 25:6-10), the prophet Isaiah foretells of the end times when the final salvation on Mt Zion will be like a banquet beyond anything imaginable on earth, a time when all peoples will be joined together and every tear will be wiped away.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!" For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.
 
Our Gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) takes place during Jesus' final passion week. Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders with the third parable in a row about their failure to welcome and believe in the Messiah. In this parable, the king (God) holds a wedding feast for his son (Jesus). He sent his servants (the prophets) but they were rejected and killed. In anger, the king destroys their city and invites everyone who will come, good and bad alike.
 
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 
 
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen."

In our Epistle reading (Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20), St. Paul concludes his letter to the church in Philippi by teaching that in Christ, rich and poor are the same. When we put on Christ, we all have the "glorious riches in Christ Jesus".

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen. 

Our Gospel passage concludes with a seemingly odd story of the man without the wedding garment being cast into the darkness. It's important to know the symbolism of this message. First, the wedding host would have supplied the garment to be worn. Secondly, the garment can be seen to represent the gift of baptism, and wearing the garment to represent putting on Christ - living the baptismal promises. And so it is with the garment of our own baptism. Do we put on Christ, do we keep Christ on in our daily living?
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 8, 2017

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard 
Matthew 21:33-43 
THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD IS THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL (Psalm 80:9,12,13-14,15-16,19-20)
 
In this Sunday's readings, we hear two powerful allegories of the Vineyard (representing the people of Israel) and the land owner (representing God). In both the first reading and the Gospel, we hear how God meticulously and lovingly cared for his beloved vines, only to have it come to naught. Imagine the sorrow on the part of the Lord. 
 
In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (IS 5:1-7), we hear the "Song of the Vineyard", telling of a friend's vineyard that, after so much toil and effort, produced wild grapes. The wild grapes and the owner's response can be seen as an metaphor for the sinfulness of the people and their exile into captivity in a foreign land.
 
Let me now sing of my friend, my friend's song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.
 
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 21:33-43), Jesus continues his rebuke of the chief priests and elders with this parable, drawing upon Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard in our first reading. This is something the leaders would have surely recognized, and seen themselves in. In this parable, Jesus likens the tenants to the leaders of Israel, the servants sent by the land owner as the prophets sent by God, and the son of the owner as Jesus himself. Again, Imagine the sorrow and rightful anger of the landowner (God) as all this transpired.
 
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.
 
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 4:6-9), St. Paul writes to his beloved Philippians from prison while they themselves were experiencing persecution. He exhorts them to keep their eyes and prayers fixed on Jesus, who will provide a peace beyond all human comprehension, a peace that will enable them to transcend their current difficulties and trials.
 
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
 
We may be tempted to see our readings today as having to do with the ancient people of Israel and the early Christians. Perhaps we can see ourselves in these stories as well. How would we fare today in God's vineyard? Would God be disappointed in us? Or would he be delighted in us?
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 1, 2017

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
IS IT MY WAY THAT IS UNFAIR, OR RATHER, ARE YOUR WAYS UNFAIR?
 
This Sunday's readings give us a lesson in how God's justice and mercy coincide.
 
In our first reading (Ezekiel 18:25-28), the prophet Ezekiel preaches to the Jews in exile in Babylon. His message is one of personal responsibility for one's own actions. Death (spiritually) comes to those who turn from God, but God's mercy and forgiveness will come to those who repent and do the Father's will. 
 
Thus says the LORD: You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!" Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
 
 In our Gospel reading (Matthew 21:28-32), Jesus' authority was being questioned by the chief priests and elders. In response, he told the parable of the Two Sons. Jesus clearly likened them to the second son who said "yes" but did not do the Father's will. 
 
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, 'but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him." 
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 2:1-11), St. Paul gives us clear examples of how we are to do the Father's will, emulating Jesus' obedience to the Father.
 
Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
 
Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, 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. 
 
It may be said that each of us has two simple choices. We can say (and do) "yes" or we can say (and do) "no".  Justice and Mercy is ours to choose. 
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 24, 2017

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
The Workers in the Vineyard
SO HIGH ARE MY WAYS ABOVE YOUR WAYS

Our readings this Sunday remind us of the unfathomable mercy of God. Even those who turn to the Lord at the last minute will be welcomed into the Kingdom.

Our Gospel reading (Matthew 20:1-16) is the story of the workers in the vineyard. The master hires workers at dawn and agrees to pay them the usual day's wage. He does the same throughout the day, paying the very last workers the same as the first. This offends our sense of fairness, but not God's.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.' When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage.
 
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

In our first reading (Isaiah 55:6-9), the Prophet Isaiah invites his listeners to seek the Lord, turn from their wicked ways; for God is generous in forgiving - beyond all human understanding.

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

 In our Epistle reading (Philippians 1:20-24, 27), St. Paul is torn between serving Christ's Church on earth and being with him in eternity. Paul shows his unshakeable faith in his "life in Christ", whether here on earth or after death. His utmost is to do the will of God.
 
Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ 
 
God calls us to rejoice in the mercy of God and not be resentful if someone else receives mercy.  So high are his thoughts above our thoughts.    
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 17, 2017

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
 
"I SAY TO YOU, NOT SEVEN TIMES BUT SEVENTY-SEVEN TIMES" 

Last Sunday's readings reminded us of our God-given responsibility to care for and correct one another. This Sunday, that theme is brought to its natural fulfillment in our duty to forgive others, always.
 
In our first reading (Sirach 27:30 - 28:7), the author Ben Sira teaches us that the refusal to forgive, clinging to "wrath and anger", are in themselves sinful acts.
 
Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
 
In our Gospel passage (Matthew 18:21-35), we hear a continuation of last Sunday'sGospel, where Jesus instructed his disciples on the process of reconciliation and then gave them the power to reconcile sinners. In the very next sentence, Peter asked Jesus how often must he forgive. Jesus' answer probably shocked him, as it went far beyond what would have been Jewish custom of the time.
 
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  
 
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."
 
Our Epistle reading (Romans 14:7-9) is a short passage, probably taken from a poem or song, that underscores the transcendent nature of our relationship with Christ. When we die, we do not lose our relationship with the Lord.  
 
Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
 
Forgiveness is the opposite of vengeance; you can't have both at the same time. When we find ourselves resenting the fact that we must forgive someone over and over for the same offense, it might do us good to consider that our Father in heaven has already forgiven us far more than seventy-seven times. 
 
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, September 17, 2017
 
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