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 - April 15, 2018

The Third Sunday of Easter

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

Jesus Appears to his Disciples 
GOD HAS BROUGHT TO FULFILLMENT WHAT HE HAS ANNOUNCED BEFOREHAND 
 
In this Third Sunday of Easter, our readings remind us that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied  throughout all of the Hebrew Scriptures. Peter proclaims this in our first reading and Jesus himself "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" as he appeared to his disciples that first Easter Sunday night.

In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19), St. Peter speaks to the crowd gathered just after he healed the cripple at the "Beautiful Gate" of the temple. He proclaims the risen Christ as the "suffering servant" of Isaiah foretold long ago, raised up by the God of Abraham. He calls them to repentance and conversion.

Peter said to the people: "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away."

In our Gospel reading (Luke 24:35-48), we hear Luke's telling of that first Easter Sundaynight, when Jesus appeared to his disciples. The two disciples who were on the "road to Emmaus" have just told of their encounter with Jesus. Then Jesus appeared to the group and showed them that he is alive and not a ghost by showing his wounds and sharing a meal with them. Then he "opened their minds" to all that was written about him and commissioned them to preach the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness in his name.

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
 
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
 
"He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

In our Epistle reading (1 John 2:1-5), St. John calls us to repentance but offers comfort that when we do sin, Jesus the Advocate will intercede for us. He is expiation for our sins. 

"My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.  

Our readings remind us that from the very beginning, it is God's plan that the Christ would suffer and die for our sins and that we would be offered forgiveness and right relationship with the Father. St. John tells us that to know Jesus is to keep his commandments. May we know Jesus!
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, April 15

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 8, 2018

The Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday

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

 
Divine Mercy Sunday 
"PEACE BE WITH YOU!" 
 
Easter is such a glorious event, we celebrate it for 50 days - from EasterSunday to Pentecost Sunday. This is the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a feast enacted at the request of Our Lord himself through his revelations to St. Faustina Kowalska.

During this Easter season, all of our first readings are taken from the Acts of the Apostles and most of our Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of John. It is a special time when we learn about the early life of the Church and who Jesus truly is as he revealed himself to his disciples. It is a time when we should pay especially close attention to the readings and prayers at Mass.

In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35), we hear how the early Church came together as one community, working, praying and breaking bread together. They shared their resources and took care of one another.

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

Our Gospel reading (John 20:19-31) has two distinct messages. One is the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus appeared to his disciples in the locked room and gave them his peace and the power to forgive sins. The other message is a call to faith, which, by its very nature, is a belief in someone or something we have not seen but know to exist. It is the story of Thomas the doubter, who demands to touch the wounds of Jesus before he will believe that Jesus is risen.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
 
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
 
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
 
In our Epistle reading from the First Letter of St. John (1 John 5:1-6), we are reminded of the oneness of being that Jesus has with the Father and the special relationship we have with the Father when we believe in Jesus. We who believe that Jesus is the Son of God can conquer the world.

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
 
This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth. 

Our readings today urge us to have faith in this Jesus, the crucified, who rose from the dead, thus atoning for our sins and conquering death. With this faith comes the peace of complete trust in Jesus and the ability to show mercy to others. Whenever we show mercy, we show God.

Faith is the bird who feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
-- Rabindranath Tagore 
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, April 8
     
  • Click HERE to learn more about Divine Mercy Sunday

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday

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

Christ is Risen!"DO NOT BE AMAZED! YOU SEEK JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE CRUCIFIED. HE HAS BEEN RAISED. HE IS NOT HERE."
 
We have come to the climactic conclusion of our roller coaster liturgical week. First, Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, then the loving example of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday ("As I have done, so you also must do.") Then on Good Friday, the abject sorrow of Jesus' passion, death on the cross and burial. And now, that passion, that sorrow has been turned to incalculable joy as we learn that "He has been raised! And with him, so too will we rise to be with the Lord forever.

There are two distinct liturgies for the Easter celebration, each with its own selection of scripture readings:

Holy Saturday Easter Vigil
The Vigil Mass features numerous Old Testament readings that highlight many of the key moments in salvation history beginning with the creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:2),
"In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss . . . ."

Following is the story of God testing Abraham with the sacrifice of his only son (Genesis 22:1-18) which is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son,
"Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust. . . ."

Then comes the story of God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 14:15 - 15:1)
'The Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two. . . .'"

   The next reading is the prophesy of the Prophet Isaiah near the end of the Israelite's exile in Babylon (Isaiah 55:1-11). Isaiah looks forward to the day of liberation,
"All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!"

In our Epistle reading (Romans 6:3-11), St. Paul teaches us that as we also died with Christ, so too, we will receive new life in Christ,
"We are indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.,"

In our Gospel reading (Mark 16:1-7), we hear Mark's account of the resurrection, as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James found the stone rolled back and the tomb empty,
"Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised. He is not here."

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
The Easter morning readings are shorter and focus more succinctly on Jesus' resurrection. The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles
(Acts 10:34, 37-43)   and is an excerpt of St. Peter's speech in Caesarea where he boldly proclaimed the risen Christ, 
"You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. . . They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, . . . He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."
 
Our  Gospel reading (John 20:1-9) is John's telling of the events on Easter morning.
"Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them . . .They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter . . .When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head . . .For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead"

On this glorious Easter Day, may we reflect on the words of Pope Saint John Paul II (Angelus - 1986):
"We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery - the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. 'We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!'"

 God, grant that we may sing Alleluia with our lives all year long.
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the fu ll readings for Easter Vigil,Saturday, March 31, 2018
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday

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

MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU ABANDONED ME?

This Sunday begins the climax of our liturgical year as we walk with Jesus on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, then to his last supper with his friends, his arrest and crucifixion and his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday

This Sunday, we begin our liturgy with the Gospel at the Procession (Mark 11:1-10) as we process into the Church with voices joyously proclaiming "Hosanna to the Son of David", just as they did that Palm Sunday two thousand years ago. This is a different kind of King, coming in peace, "humbly riding on the back of a donkey." (Zachariah 9:9)

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone should say to you, 'Why are you doing this?' reply, 'The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.'" So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!"
 
As we continue the Mass with our first reading (Isaiah 50:4-7), we recall Isaiah's prophesy of the suffering servant, persecuted for his righteousness and yet he does not flinch. This prophesy, written around the late 6th century B.C., is said to clearly prefigure Christ.

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
 
Our Epistle reading (Philippians 2:6-11) continues to emphasize the humility of Jesus, taking on the human form to unite with us, bear our suffering and atone for our sins, once, for all.   

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
   
Our Gospel reading is the Passion of Our Lord according to Mark (14:1 - 15:47). In Mark's account, the cross is depicted as Jesus' way to glory in accordance with the divine will. Thus the passion narrative is seen as the climax of Jesus' ministry.

The Gospel reading is too lengthily to present here, but please, click HERE  to read and reflect on the Gospel account of the Passion of Our Lord.
 
May we not pass by this opportunity to reflect deeply on this mystery of God's salvation gift to us, his beloved children. Also, it would be good to reflect on Jesus' intense suffering so that we may be united with the Father as he is united with the Father.. May we emulate the humility, the obedience and the love of Jesus.
 
Click HERE to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, March 25, 2018
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 18, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

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

UNLESS A GRAIN OF WHEAT FALLS TO THE GROUND AND DIES, IT REMAINS JUST A GRAIN OF WHEAT..

This is our last full week of Lent before we experience the Triduum, Holy Week. Our readings this week focus on the New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah and coming to fulfillment in Jesus. The hour has come!

In our first reading (Jeremiah 31:31-34), we hear the beautiful and tender call of God to a new order, a new covenant, a personal covenant, written on our hearts. Unlike the old covenant, which was physical and temporal, this covenant is spiritual and everlasting. It is based on a love relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.


In our Gospel reading (John 12:20-33), we hear of Jesus' very human reaction to the thought of his coming "hour", when he would be lifted up on a cross, hung there to die. It was one of terror. And yet, his trust in his heavenly Father allowed him to proceed with peace in his heart. This is the institution of the New Covenant of which Jeremiah spoke in our first reading. Jesus' "hour has come."

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.


In our Epistle reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (5:7-9), the author more fully describes Jesus' very human fear of death as "loud cries and tears". And yet his obedience to the will of the Father was what made him "perfect."

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.


Just as Jesus was transformed through his suffering and death into eternal glory with the Father, so too are we transformed in the Eucharist. In every Mass, we participate in the relived experience of that terrifying night and Jesus' tortuous death on the cross and then glorious resurrection and triumph over the evil one of this world. When we receive his Body and drink his "Blood of the New Covenant", we take into our being the law which is written on our hearts. "I will be their God and they shall be my people." How could we ever miss such an opportunity.

Click HERE to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, March 18, 2018

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 11, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

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

John 3: 16
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD ....
 
This Sunday, our Lenten journey brings us face to face with God's ever-present and inscrutable love and our response to that love throughout history.

In our first reading (2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23), we hear a condensed history of the repetitive cycle of the people of Israel turning away from God, God sending his love through his prophets to call them back, the people rejecting that love, then suffering the consequences of their actions, and then God lovingly restoring them into right relationship.

In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD's temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem. Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon, where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: "Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled."
 
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: "Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!"


In our Gospel reading (John 3:14-21), we hear the well known passage, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son ..." but presented in the context of salvation history. The reading opens with a reference to Moses raising a bronze serpent on a staff to save the Israelites from deadly serpents (Numbers 21:4-9). And the comparison is made to Jesus, now being raised on the cross to save God's people from the evilest of all serpents, the devil himself. This passage also contains a warning that those to reject God's love condemn themselves.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
 
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.


In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 2:4-16), St. Paul succinctly describes God's tender mercy and great love for us, even though we have sinned and turned our backs to God. Paul reminds us that even the faith we have is a gift from God, through no merit of our own.

Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ - by grace you have been saved - , raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.


As we continue our Lenten journey toward the cross and resurrection, perhaps we can be mindful of our own cycles of sin and redemption and realize that God's love is ever-present, never fading, no matter what! Perhaps we can encounter God's tender mercy face-to-face in Reconciliaton this Wednesday between 12:30 and 7:30 pm at any Catholic Church in the Diocese - they're all open. Will you be open to it? http://forgiven.dor.org

Click HERE to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, March 11, 2018

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An introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - March 4, 2018

The Third Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
The Ten Commandments - Right Relationship with God and Each Other 
I, THE LORD, AM YOUR GOD

This third Sunday of Lent, we are reminded that Lent is a time to refocus our efforts on being in Right Relationship with God and with each other.

Our first reading (Exodus 20:1-17) is a listing of the Ten Commandments, given by God himself. It is evidence of a personal, loving God calling his chosen people into a covenant relationship. In the first three, God calls us into relationship with himself as the one, true and only God. In the remaining commandments, God calls us into relationship with each other, in a bond of love and respect - an image of the loving relationship God has with us.

In those days, God delivered all these commandments: "I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. "You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain.

"Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. "Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him."

In our Gospel reading (John 2:13-25), we hear the story of Jesus chasing the money-changers out of the temple. His was rightfully angry that the holy dwelling place of his Father was no longer treated with reverence. Jesus used this Passover setting to point to the coming Passover scene when he himself, the true Temple of God, would be destroyed and raised up again in three days.

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
 
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 1:22-25), St. Paul presents the paradoxical mystery of "Christ crucified" as the wisdom of God. It is a stumbling block and foolishness for many; for how could the ignominious public execution of one man lead to anything but death and disgrace?

Brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Developing a right relationship with God is much the same as being in right relationship with our spouse or children. It is a life-long endeavor. It is an exercise in communication - both ways. We must continuously talk to God, as the loving friend and parent that he is, and also learn to listen to God. Coming into tune with God is what happens in prayer. The more we work at it, the better tuned-in we are. Prayer helps us tune out the static of our world and tune in to the frequency of God.
 
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for March 4, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 25, 2018brfaha

The Second Sunday of Lent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
The Transfiguration of Jesus
I KNOW NOW HOW DEVOTED YOU ARE TO GOD, SINCE YOU DID NOT WITHHOLD FROM ME YOUR OWN BELOVED SON.
 
As we continue our lenten journey toward the cross, we are asked to ponder God's unfathomable love for us, so great that he did not withhold from us his own beloved son. 

In our first reading (Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18), we hear to vivid story of Abraham as he freely offers "his only son Isaac, whom he loves," as a holocaust to God. Even though complying with God's request would have meant an end to God's promise for "descendants as countless as the stars", he did not question. His love for God was greater than all else. We see in Abraham's absolute trust in God as a model for us.

God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am!" he replied. Then God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you." 

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the LORD's messenger called to him from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Here I am!" he answered. "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the messenger. "Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son." As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. 

Again the LORD's messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing-all this because you obeyed my command."

In our Gospel reading (Mark 9:2-10), we hear of the Transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain. There are many elements of this story that directly link Jesus to the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. In it, Jesus is revealed in all his divine glory. This takes place shortly before Jesus passion and death - from divine glory to the agony of crucifixion. At the conclusion of this scene, we hear the voice of God saying, "This is my beloved son. Listen to him."

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
 
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

In our Epistle reading (Romans 8:31-34), St. Paul reassures his Christian audience that, even in the midst of relentless persecution, they can be no less glorified in their suffering than God's own son, whom God "handed over for us all".
 
Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died-or, rather, was raised - who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

One of the things we learn today is that God's call is personal and demanding. It is not always easy. We follow in the footsteps of God's own son. But we know where those footsteps lead. Beyond the suffering, beyond the hardships, beyond even death, we know God's unfathomable love for us will transcend it all. "It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?" When God calls to us, how should we respond? As Abraham, "Here I am."

  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for February 25, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 18, 2018

The First Sunday of Lent

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

"The Temptation"
Used with permission ©Eric Armusik

REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL
 
We have now begun our Lenten journey. It is a journey that will prepare us to fully experience Christ's passion, death and resurrection. Our readings this Sunday ask us to consider our own Baptism and to turn our attention to prayer, fasting and works of penance. These will temper our sinful nature and bring us closer to Jesus.

In our first reading, (Genesis 9:8:15), we hear God's covenant with Noah. After Noah's salvation through the waters of the flood (prefiguring our baptism), God promises to never again destroy humanity with the waters of a flood. From that point on, water has always symbolized cleansing, rebirth and baptism.
 
God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth."
 
God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings."
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 1:12-15), we hear of Jesus' temptation in the desert, which occurs in Mark's Gospel immediately after his baptism. These two events (baptism and temptation) signify Jesus' willing entry into the human experience. Jesus willingly submits to both as a sign of his solidarity with all of humanity. This marks the beginning of his public ministry as he proclaims, "The Kingdom of God is at hand . . ."

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."


In our Epistle reading (1 Peter 3:18-22), St. Peter draws a direct connection between the sinfulness of man, the saving waters of Noah's new life and Jesus's entering into our world through his own baptism as well as his suffering with us and for us. 
 
Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
 
Jesus is often referred to as the "new Adam" in contrast to the first Adam, who allowed Satan's temptation to have mastery over him. In today's Gospel, Jesus triumphs over Satan and his empty promises. This sets the stage for the beginning Jesus' public ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God. It is also the start of our Lenten journey toward the cross and Jesus' final mastery over Satan and death. We are called to the same ideal, through the grace of God. This is the season to "repent and believe in the Gospel."
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for February 18, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - February 11, 2018

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Jesus Cleanses the Leper 
I DO WILL IT. BE MADE CLEAN.

Our readings this Sunday call our attention to the norms of purity and social boundaries. There was a clear and impenetrable boundary between the "clean" and the "unclean". It was a time when affliction was thought to be a punishment from God for past sins.

In our first reading (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46), we hear the beginning and end of a long prescription on how to deal with someone with a scaly skin infection. Cast out from society, considered unclean added misery upon misery.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. "The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!' As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." 

In our Gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45), we hear just how easily and quickly Jesus was to cast aside social taboos in his compassion and love for the suffering and downcast. Not only does the leper cross the boundary by approaching Jesus, but Jesus renders himself impure but touching the person with leprosy. The lepor's faith is met by Jesus healing touch.

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
 
He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 10:31 - 11:1), St. Paul sums up his teaching with the What to Do and the How to Do of Christian life. What: "Do everything for the glory of God"; How: "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ."

Brothers and sisters, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 

Boundaries are comfortable; they are easy. St. Paul challenges us to be "imitators of Christ". That may mean crossing the boundaries of social norms in the name of Compassion - in the name of Christ. 
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for February 11, 2017

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