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 - June 24, 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

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

 

JOHN HERALDED HIS COMING BY PROCLAIMING A BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
 
This Sunday is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Because this holy feast falls on a Sunday and not a weekday, we have two separate sets of readings - one for the Vigil Mass and one for Mass during the day. The link for the full readings for both Masses are listed below, but we will focus our attention on the blend of the readings for Saturday and Sunday.
 
John is considered the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said of him, "Of those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11). Both first readings (Saturday and Sunday) make the point that like John, two of his precursors, Isaiah and Jeremiah, were formed and dedicated in the womb by God. All three would suffer greatly in their role in preparing the way of the Lord, and thus would also prefigure Christ.
 
In Saturday's first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-10), the Lord speaks to Jeremiah 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." A reluctant Jeremiah protests to the Lord, "I know not how to speak; I am too young." But the Lord answered him, "Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."
 
In Sunday's first reading, (Isaiah 49:1-6), Isaiah, like Jeremiah before him, recalls the words of God, 
"For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

In both our Gospel readings, we hear excerpts from Luke's infancy narrative (Luke 1:1-80) describing the events surrounding John's birth, interwoven into the story of Jesus' birth. In Saturday's Gospel reading (Luke 1:5-17), we hear of an elderly priestly couple (Zechariah and Elizabeth) who had no children for she was barren. One day, while in the temple sanctuary offering sacrifice, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, 

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. John will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn their hearts toward their children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord."

In Sunday's Gospel, (Luke 1:57-66, 80), we we hear of the actual birth of John and the events surrounding his naming.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No. He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. 

In Sunday's Epistle reading (Acts 13:22-26), St. Luke describes how John herladed the coming of Jesus, proclaiming a baptism of repentance.

John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.'

Our readings this weekend make mention of three great prophets who preceded John - Jeremiah, Isaac and Elijah. All four were great prophets and in their own right, preparing the way for the Lord and calling people back to God and to repentance. But it didn't end with John, or even the ultimate prophet, Jesus. It continues with us. By virtue of our Baptism in the Lord, we share in Christ's ministry of priest, prophet and king. It is now up to us to herald the coming of Jesus into our world, into the lives and hearts of all we meet, especially those closest to us.. 

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for the Vigil Mass, Saturday, June 23
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for the Mass during the day, Sunday, June 24
  • Click HERE to read and learn more about the distinct portraits of John the Baptist in all four Gospels.

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 17, 2018

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
(Mark 4:26-34
)
". . . . AND THROUGH IT ALL THE SEED WOULD SPROUT AND GROW, HE KNOWS NOT HOW."
 
Our Scripture readings this Sunday focus our attention on the small seed (or small shoot) that, with the grace of God, will grow into a mighty tree with room for all the birds of the sky (people of all nations).
 
In our first reading (Ezekiel 17:22-24), we hear the beautiful allegory representing God's restoration of Israel. So great will this majestic cedar be that "birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it."  In the Christological sense, the small branch represents the Christ, plucked from the majestic tree of David.

Thus says the Lord GOD: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

In our Gospel reading (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus relates two parables about seeds that teach us that God is the source of all growth and that even the smallest of beginnings, nourished by God, can change the world for good. It is God who commands the seed to rise, though the farmer is unaware.

Jesus said to the crowds: "This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come."

He said, "To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
 
In our Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 5:6-10), St. Paul teaches us that our life here on earth is temporary. Our bodies are a "home away from home", until we rest in the Lord. At death, we will receive the merits of our life here on earth.

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

We sometimes have two roles. At times, we are the fertile ground in which God plants his seed and with God's grace, produces much fruit. At other times, we are the sowers of the seeds God gives us to plant. We, in our aspirations of grandeur, sometimes look for the largest of seeds to plant, when in reality, it is often the smallest of seeds, the smallest of deeds, that bear the most fruit. It is not for us to know what becomes of the seed. "Of its own accord, the land yields fruit". We, grateful for the opportunity to sow the seeds, must trust in God's wisdom.

God often works through the small, the weak and the forgotten. Often, it is the smallest of deeds that, with the prompting of God, will grow into the mightiest of trees. Think of St. Therese of Calcutta at her beginnings, one small woman among the poorest of the poor, simply ministering to one person at a time. And so many others, who only by the grace of God, changed the world. It is not for us to know the good that we do.

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full scripture readings for Sunday, June 17

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 10, 2018

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Sin enters the Garden (Genesis 3:9-15)
I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN YOU AND THE WOMAN
 
In our readings today, we hear how sin entered the world, and with it, shame, guilt and alienation. And yet, God offered ultimate victory over sin.
 
In our first reading (Genesis 3:9-15), we hear the account of Adam and Eve's encounter with God after their great sin. Despite their disobedience, God searched for them, did not abandon them. They suffered the consequences of their actions, but God offered ultimate victory over the evil one through Eve's offspring - "he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." 
 
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."
 
Then the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 3:20-35), Jesus went home with his disciples and the crowds were unrelenting. His relatives thought he had gone mad and the scribes accused him of being with Satan because he cast out demons. It is precisely this mastery over demons that corresponds to Eve's offspring crushing the head of the serpent. 
 
Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
 
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder the house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." For they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
 
His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
 
In our Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 4:13-51), St. Paul represents the struggles of this life as transitory and keeps his eye on the ultimate victory over death, through Jesus, and eternal life with God in heaven.  
 
Brothers and sisters: Since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we too believe and therefore we speak, knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to that is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
 
Many scholars believe that the reference in Genesis 3:15 of the offspring of Eve striking at the head of the serpent (Satan) is a reference to Jesus, as the offspring of Mary. It is why we often see Mary depicted with her heel on the head of the serpent. It gives us hope to know that no matter what our sin, God will seek us out -"Where are you?" and, while not insulating us from the consequences of our sin, will offer us forgiveness and redemption. This is the hope of which Paul speaks in his letter to the Corinthians. It is our hope today.
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, June 10

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 3, 2018

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH WILL BE SHED FOR MANY.
 
This Sunday is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). It is our celebration of praise and thanksgiving for Christ's gift of himself to us, in covenant bond and sacrificial offering to the Father, for our sins. In order to more fully understand the significance of this gift, we should appreciate the history of God's covenant relationship with his chosen people and the rite of the high priest's annual atonement for sins through the shedding of an unblemished animal's blood and sprinkling upon the people. Today's readings help us understand that.
 
In our first reading (Exodus 24:3-8), we hear the ancient ritual of Moses and the Israelite's ratifying their covenant relationship with God through the sacrificial shedding of blood, "Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.'" This was the first covenant, what we Christians refer to as the Old Covenant or Old Testament.
 
When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his." 
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26), we hear how Jesus instituted his New Covenant or New Testament so that sins may be forgiven. At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared to offer himself in place of the unblemished lamb as sacrifice for the sins of all people - for all eternity. "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." 
 
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
 
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 9:11-15), we hear reference to the rite of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), where the high priest, once each year, would go behind the veil of the sanctuary and offer sacrifice to God in atonement for the sins of the people. Then he would sprinkle blood of the sacrifice on the people as a sign of their covenant with God. The author of Hebrews draws a direct corollary between this practice and the act of Jesus who "offered himself unblemished on the cross" - not once each year, but "once for all" - for all people and for all eternity.
 
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
 
For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
 
Every Mass we participate in is a reenactment of that sacrificial offering of Jesus as the unblemished lamb in atonement for our sins.  Jesus has instituted this sacrament of Eucharist, the true presence of his body and blood, for our benefit, so that we could forever be nourished and strengthened by his saving presence within us. The significance of this act directly connects us not only with the new covenant of the cross, but also with Moses and that first covenant relationship with God on Mount Sinai. 
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, June 3
  • Click HERE to hear what Bishop Robert Barron has to say on this feast

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 27, 2018

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
The two Sundays that follow Pentecost are the feasts of the Most Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church now focuses our thoughts on two central and unfathomable mysteries of our Catholic faith - the mystery of our Triune God - one God in three persons - and the mystery of the Holy Eucharist - the real, living presence of Jesus Christ in body, blood, soul and divinity.  
 
In our first reading (Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40), Moses spoke to the Israelites as they prepared to cross over into the promised land. He reminded them of the awesome glory of their God. A God who loved them into existence and chose them for his special mission on Earth. In our reading today, Moses calls them to faithfulness, to "know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God."  
 
Moses said to the people: "Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever."
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 28:16-20), we hear the conclusion of Matthew's Gospel as Jesus gave final instructions to his disciples, to "go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations." It is in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that he sent them. This is perhaps the clearest indication in the New Testament of the knowledge of the Holy Trinity.
 
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
 
In our Epistle reading (Romans 8:14-17), St. Paul reminds us that we are children of God by adoption. In this short passage, we hear mention of the Father (Abba), the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit, all referred to as God. --"if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him". 
 
Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.  
 
There is a line in the popular movie, The Shack, where "Mack", the protagonist, is together with the three persons of the Trinity. He asks them, "Which one of you is God". They all respond in unison, "I am"., or it could be "I AM", a biblical reference to Yahweh. 

So many times throughout the day, we invoke the Trinity in the simple act of blessing ourselves. Rarely though, do we ponder this great mystery. Here is a brief explanation found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 254):  
 
The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "Father", "Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another.
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, May 27
  • Click HERE to read what the Catechism says about the Holy Trinity

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 20, 2018

Pentecost Sunday

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
LORD SEND OUT YOUR SPIRIT, AND RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH.(Psalm 104) 
 
On this Pentecost Sunday, there are separate and multiple optional readings for the Vigil Mass and the Masses during the day. So this week, we will concentrate on the readings for the Sunday Masses during the day.
 
'Pentecost' is a Greek word meaning 'fiftieth day' and is the biblical feast commemorating the day God gave the Torah to the people of Israel. It was celebrated fifty days after the Passover Feast. In biblical times, all Jews of age were required to travel to Jerusalem to participate in the celebration. Pentecost Sunday is often referred to as the birthday of the Church - the day when we Christians became Church.
 
Our first reading (Acts 2:1-11) tells this story vividly. Fifty days after Jesus' Passover supper, the disciples were celebrating the harvest festival of Pentecost or Shavuot (feast of weeks). Suddenly, the promised Advocate descended upon them and enlightened and emboldened them. 
 
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
 
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."
 
In our Gospel reading (John 15:26-27; 16:12-15) Jesus promised his disciples that the Advocate (Holy Spirit) would come. He "will guide you to all truth". Everything the Father and Jesus shared will be declared to them.  
 
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
 
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
 
In our Epistle reading (Galations 5:16-25), St. Paul exhorts his readers to live in the Spirit, not in the flesh. He then clearly outlines what each means. He highlights sixteen vices of the flesh and nine "fruits of the Spirit". If we live in the Spirit, we will evidence those fruits in our daily lives.  
 
Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
 
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
 
 This Advocate, the Holy Spirit came just as Jesus had promised. It was a thrilling and earthshaking event that changed the world. This "Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father and the Son" lives and remains active in our world today. This is our prayer today and always, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the fact of the earth."
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Saturday, May 19
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, May 20

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 13, 2018

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

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

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer (John 17)
IF GOD SO LOVED US, WE ALSO MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Our first reading and our Gospel reading this Sunday both mention that Judas ("the son of destruction")  acted "in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled". It is a reminder that God's plan, by his design, has unfolded since the beginning of creation. 
 
In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20-26), Peter and the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, replace Judas as Apostle with Matthias. They most likely considered the significance of the number twelve as important in representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the coming of the "reconstituted Kingdom of Israel" in heaven. 
 
Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers - there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place -. He said, "My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. "For it is written in the Book of Psalms: May another take his office.
 
"Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection." So they proposed two, Judas called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. 
 
 In our Gospel reading (John 17:11-19), we hear a segment of what is known as Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer". It was his final farewell discourse before he was arrested. In it, Jesus talks directly with his Father on behalf of his disciples. He consecrated them to the Father in truth and to their mission on earth. Jesus spoke of his ministry in the past tense as he began to focus on what was to come.
 
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."
 
In our Epistle reading (1 John 4:11-16), we hear a continuation of last Sunday's epistle on the nature of God (God is love) and our response to God's love. John writes that God's entire being is love and God's love is expressed through the gift of his Son as expiation for our sins. And we are called to emulate that love by loving one another, in the same manner that Jesus has loved us.
 
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
 
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 
 
The unity that Jesus speaks of between him and the Father is the same unity he speaks of between him and his disciples. Jesus is the bridge. It is the same union John speaks of in his epistle of love. "Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God." It is impossible to remain in God and not love one another, especially those for whom the world or our experience deems unlovable. The more we love, the more we are in God and God in us. 
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, May 13
  • Click HERE to listen to the entire Farewell Discourse of Jesus

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - May 6, 2018

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

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

 
IN THIS IS LOVE: NOT THAT WE HAVE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT GOD HAS LOVED US.

In today's readings, the person of God is clearly defined for us. In each of our readings, we hear an aspect of God's boundless love; all saying the same thing: God isLove!

In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), we hear about Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, the (Gentile) Centurion. While Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends upon all who are listening. Thus, It is clear to Peter and those with him that "God shows no partiality" and that "whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him", Jews and Gentiles alike.

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, "Get up. I myself am also a human being." Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him."

While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?" He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
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In today's Gospel (John 15:9-17), we hear the continuation of Jesus' teaching from last Sunday's Gospel on the vine and the branches. In this segment, Jesus describes what love is and who the Father is (Love). The kicker at the end - "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you."

Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another."

In our Epistle reading (1 John 4:7-10), St. John describes God as being Love itself. It is not just an attribute of God, it is who God is. There can be no better or clearer description of who God is. It is this Love that sent his only son as "expiation for our sins."

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Here is a personal reflection on what it means that God is Love: All the many ways that we refer to God are anthropomorphic in nature, meaning they are human characteristics we assign to God in an effort to understand what is beyond our understanding, except one - Love. Love is not a human characteristic we assign to God, it is God's character that he assigns to us. To love is to be like God; it is how we are in the image of God. For anyone who has ever loved another person so completely as to sacrifice everything for the good of that person, has seen God. 
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, May 6

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 29, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

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

 
REMAIN IN ME AS I REMAIN IN YOU

Our readings during this Easter season are a special delight because our first readings are always from the Acts of the Apostles, telling the story of the formation of the early Church. Our second readings are mostly from the First Letter of St. John, focusing on love and our relationship to God, remaining (living) in him and he is us. Our Gospel readings are from the Gospel of John, focusing on the true identity of Jesus, his relationship to the Father and our relationship to the Father through Jesus.

In our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31), we hear how the Apostles were afraid of this new convert Saul (Paul), who had formerly persecuted them with a vengeance. Now, since Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1), he "spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord."
 
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus. 
 
The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers. 

In our Gospel reading (John 15:1-8), Jesus describes himself as the "true vine", us as the branches and the Father as the vine grower. Just as branches cannot live apart from the vine, so we cannot live apart from Jesus. If we remain (abide) in him, we will bear much fruit.

Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

In our Epistle reading, (1 John 3:18-24), St. John lays out the intimate relationship we have with God - a relationship of Love. We are commanded to love one another. In so doing, and in believing in Jesus, the Christ, we remain (abide) in him and he in us.

Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.

We who live in the wine region of New York can especially relate to the metaphor of the vine, the branches and the bearing of fruit. We understand how the vine must be pruned in winter and we understand what happens to the branches that are cut off from the vine. We know the relationship the vine grower has to his vines and the grapes. We are called to believe in Jesus, the son of God and remain (abide) in him. What a comfort that is.
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, April 29

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - April 22, 2018

 
 

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

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

I AM the Good Shepherd 

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD, AND I KNOW MINE AND MINE KNOW ME.
 
The fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday and also Vocation Sunday. It is an opportunity for us to ponder the great love the Lord has for us and the special relationship we have with him and with the Father through him.

Our first reading (Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12) is a continuation of the events following the healing of the cripple at the temple gate by Peter and John (Acts 3). Now they have been brought before the chief priests and questioned. Peter speaks boldly with the authority given him by Jesus. What he tells them, they do not want to hear.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: "Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."

In our Gospel reading (John 10:11-18), Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. Unlike the hired man, who runs away when the wolf comes because he has no "skin in the game", so to speak. Jesus has more than skin, he has his whole body and life in the game. The relationship between sheep and shepherd has always been a great metaphor for describing our relationship with our Lord. Notice the contrast between the wolf (Satin, the great scatterer) and the Shepherd (Jesus, the great gatherer). Whom do we follow?

Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father." 

In our Epistle reading (1 John 3:1-2), St. John reminds us of our special relationship with the Father through Jesus. When the fullness of time is revealed, we know we shall be like God for we shall see him as he is. 

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

All of our readings today are about relationship - with Jesus and with our Father. Our first reading tells us it is through Jesus alone that we find salvation. He is the cornerstone of our lives. Our Epistle reminds us that we are God's children, which means God is our Father. Our Gospel reading describes Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He knows us and we know his voice and we follow him. He lays down his life for us. Relationships are two-way propositions. It is we who should act like children of God. It would be good to remember that we also have "skin in the game".  
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, April 22

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