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

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 16, 2018

The Third Sunday of Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
NOW THE PEOPLE WERE FILLED WITH EXPECTATION
 
This is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. The word is taken from today's entrance antiphon, Gaudete Domino semper (Rejoice in the Lord always). It is a reminder by the Church that Christ is not far off.
 
In our first reading (Zephaniah 3:14-18), we hear yet another prophet proclaim to the people that after the days of judgement for their sins, there would come a day when God would renew them in his love. It would be a cause for great rejoicing.
 
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you; he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 3:10-18), we hear a continuation of last week's Gospel introduction of John the Baptist. In today's reading, the people are asking whether John might be the Christ, the long awaited savior who would come in their midst and live among them. John preached the good news of repentance, for the Lord is not far off.
 
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
 
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 4:4-7), We hear the passage on which today's Gaudete theme is based. St. Paul sums up its meaning succinctly: "Rejoice! . . . The Lord is near."
 
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
 
It can be difficult for us, just as it was in the days of the prophets and in the days of the early Church. Through our suffering and our tears, we must trust in God. Our God is a God who fulfills his promises. Indeed this is a cause for rejoicing.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 9, 2018

The Second Sunday of Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE STRAIGHT HIS PATHS
 
The readings for this Second Sunday of Advent fill us with hope for who and what is to come. The promised Messiah, the one who would transcend death itself. As John the Baptist proclaims in our Gospel, "Prepare ye the way".
 
Our first reading for this Sunday comes from the Prophet Baruch, the scribe to the great Prophet Jeremiah (Bar 5:1-9). The situation in time is the most dire of circumstances, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and exile to Babylon. The people of God felt as if their loving God would never love them again. Not an uncommon feeling for many suffering people in our own time. Baruch speaks with utter confidence as he heralds the day when the Lord will come in his glory, when the scattered people of Israel will be brought back.
 
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.
 
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 3:1-6), we hear Luke's introduction to John the Baptist. It was a time when Israel longed for the promised Messiah. Luke describes John's primary role of preparing the way of the Lord. Luke borrows from Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Baruch using the descriptive images of God coming in glory, filling the valleys and leveling the mountains.
 
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
 
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11), St. Paul instructs his readers how they should live as they wait for "the day of Christ", the day Christ would return. Paul's prayer is no less relevant today - for us and for those we love.
 
Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
 
And so, as we continue our season for preparing for the coming of Jesus, we may be encouraged by the faith and confidence or our ancestors. It was and is a hope that has not disappointed.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 2, 2018

The First Sunday of Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
I WILL RAISE UP FOR DAVID A JUST SHOOT; HE SHALL DO WHAT IS RIGHT AND JUST IN THE LAND.
 
Happy New Year! This is the first Sunday of our new liturgical year - a time of anticipation and a whole new fresh start in life. For the next four weeks, our readings will focus on three things - God's promise of old for a messiah, Anticipation of God's promise kept at Christmas, and God's promise of Jesus' second coming when our "redemption is at hand."
 
The words of the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading (JER 33:14-16), offered hope to Israelites in exile in Babylon. He prophesied God's promise of the restoration of Jerusalem and an heir (a just shoot) to the throne of David who would reign as king forever. If there was one thing the Israelites knew, it was that God keeps his promises.
 
The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36), Jesus describes a frightful time of tribulation when the final judgement comes and Jesus returns. But for the faithful and vigilant ones, "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."
 
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
 
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
 
In our Epistle reading (Thessalonians 3:12 - 4:2), St. Paul gives us advice on how we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. This advice holds true for both the first coming of Christ at Christmas and for his second coming at the end of time. This advice is perhaps something we could write in a Christmas letter to our own children.
 
Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
 
Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
 
This advent season is a time of looking to the past and looking to the future but with the purpose of influencing our present. Just as Jesus comes into the world anew at Christmas, so too he comes into our hearts anew. This is a time of preparation for that glorious visit.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 25, 2018

The Tritry-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
I SAW ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN COMING, ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN
 
This is the last Sunday of our liturgical year. Next Sunday begins the Advent season as we prepare our hearts to receive our Lord and King. As with our readings last week, our Church turns our attention to a foremost reality of our faith - that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed on of God. He is Lord of the universe but also must be Lord of our hearts, our minds, our lives, and our families.
 
Our first reading (Daniel 7:13-14) is the passage Jesus quoted in last week's Gospel, saying, I am he, "The one like a Son of man coming on the clouds" . . . the one "who's dominion is an everlasting dominion."
 
As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 18:33-37), we hear a scene from the passion narrative of the evangelist John as Jesus was interrogated by Pilate. Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world." Jesus is not like any king the world knew. He is a servant king, one who reigns in love, not in violence, one who seeks the lost and rescues them.
 
Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
 
In our Epistle reading from the Book of Revelation (RV 1:5-8), John tells us "he is coming amid the clouds" and that he has made us into "priests for his God and Father." As priests, we who believe in the Christ are mediators between the people in our lives and God. We are called to teach, to witness, to love as our model Christ did for us.
 
Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen.
 
In this "Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe", we are reminded that Jesus is King of all creation. Because of that, we are called to invite Jesus to reign as Lord and King of our hearts, our families, our avocations, our professions, our hopes and dreams, every aspect of our lives. To do less is to do injustice to our faith, to make Jesus a part-time king (with a small k). Jesus invites us to "Choose Christ."
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 18, 2018

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
THEN THEY WILL SEE THE "SON OF MAN COMING IN THE CLOUDS"
 
As we approach the season of Advent (in two weeks), the Church turns our attention to the end times - perhaps it is a way of reminding us of how it all turns out before it all begins.
 
In our first reading (Daniel 12:1-3), we hear one of the apocalyptic visions of Daniel promising final deliverance of God's people who are faithful, while others will meet "everlasting horror and disgrace." This vision offered hope to those who were suffering persecution - just as it does for us today.
 
In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.
 
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 13:24-32), Jesus borrowed from another one of Daniel's visions (Daniel 7:13-14) as he said, "you will see the 'Son of Man coming in the clouds'". Jesus was describing his second coming at the final judgement. Like the fig tree changing from winter to the full bloom of summer, it would be a time of renewal and transformation.
 
Jesus said to his disciples: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. "And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
 
"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 10:11-14, 18), we hear yet another comparison with earthly priests and our eternal high priest, Jesus, who offered one sacrifice for sins and then waits until his enemies are vanquished. Once these sins were forgiven through Jesus, there can be no further offering for sin.
 
Brothers and sisters: Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
 
As we begin to prepare for the close of our liturgical year and look toward preparations for that awesome and glorious incarnation, we must keep in mind that God's plan unfolds according to his plan. Nothing is happenstance for God. The ultimate triumph of God has been ordained since the beginning of time.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 11, 2018

The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
SHE, FROM PER POVERTY, CONTRIBUTED ALL SHE HAD.
 
Our readings today offer us a glimpse into the world of the poorest of the poor who give all they have.
 
In our first reading from the first Book of Kings (1 Kings 17:10-16), the prophet Elijah encountered a poor widow who shared with him her last meal, even as she and her son were about to die of famine. God rewarded her and her son with life.
 
In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, "Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink." She left to get it, and he called out after her, "Please bring along a bit of bread." She answered, "As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, 'The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'" She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 12:38-44), we hear of another poor widow who gave to the temple treasury everything she had, two small coins. This, in contrast to the rich people who gave large sums out of their surplus wealth. Jesus called attention to her as a model for us.
 
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."
 
He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 9:24-28), we hear a continuation of the Letter to the Hebrews from the past few weeks. In it, we hear the continuing contrast between Jesus, our eternal high priest, and the earthly high priests of old. They entered a man-made sanctuary, Jesus enters into the presence of God on our behalf. They offered imperfect sacrifices, first for their own sins, then for others. Jesus, the unblemished lamb, offers the perfect sacrifice - himself. They offered continual sacrifices, Jesus offers himself once, for all people, for all time.
 
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
 
Just as Jesus offered everything he had to give, his very self, in sacrifice for our sins, so to, our two widows in today's readings offered everything they had in sacrifice to God. We are called to emulate that spirit of sacrifice - not from our surplus wealth but from our poverty. What is it we are poorest of? Perhaps, that is what we are called to give.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 4, 2018

The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 4, 2018

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
HEAR O ISRAEL! THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE.
 
Our readings this Sunday ask the important question - What is most important in your life? Jesus gives us the answer in today's Gospel.
 
In our first reading (Deuteronomy 6:2-6) we hear Moses teaching the Israelites the central theme of the Mosaic Law; what ultimately became known as the Shema Prayer. Shema, in Hebrew, is the first word of the prayer, "Listen" or "Hear O Israel." This prayer is still prayed today by devout Jews every morning and every night.
 
Moses spoke to the people, saying: "Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.
 
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today."
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 12:28-34), Jesus is questioned by an apparently friendly scribe, "What is the first of all commandments?" Jesus answered by reciting the Shema prayer we hear in our first reading. But then, he took it a step further, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
 
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
 
The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 7:23-28), we hear of the Jewish high priests, who would offer sacrifice once each year and would ultimately die and be replaced by another. He would offer atonement for his own sins as well as those of the people. Then we hear of Jesus, our eternal high priest, who offered himself as sacrifice once, for all.
 
Brothers and sisters: The levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.
 
It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.
 
What Jesus puts to us succinctly in today's Gospel is the thought that all sin is in one form or another an offense against God, another person, or our own person. That is why all commandments can be summarized in these two great commandments. It might make for a good nightly examen - "How have I sinned against the sanctity of God, how have I sinned against the sanctity of others, how have I sinned against the sanctity of myself?"
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 28, 2018

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In The Hope You Will Enter More Fully Into The Mass
 
Blind BartimaeusTAKE COURAGE; GET UP, JESUS IS CALLING YOU.
 
Our readings this Sunday speak to us about the hope of those who are lost, blind and lame -- those of us in exile, both physical and spiritual, who call out from our woundedness, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."
 
In our first reading (Jeremiah 31:7-9), the prophet Jeremiah offers hope to the lost tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, those carried off and resettled to other nations by Assyria. The blind and the lame will be gathered from the ends of the world and brought back home to the Lord.
 
Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52), we hear of Bartimaeus, blind since birth, a symbol of the lost, the alienated, the spiritually blind, calling out to Jesus, calling him Son of David. His faith and his persistence are models for us. Jesus heard his cries and told him, "your faith has saved you."
 
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 5:1-6), the author instructs us in the role of the high priest - one of human estate, called by God to offer sacrifice on our behalf for our sins. Jesus, like us in every way but sin, experiencing the sufferings of humanity, fills this role perfectly. He deals patiently with us; he is our high priest for ever.
 
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
 
In many ways, we live in a form of exile, alienated from God, blinded by our sin. We long for our return from exile. We take hope from Jeremiah that God will gather us back. Sometimes, we call out to Jesus, "have pity on me", and only half expect him to answer us. Let no one silence us. It is the faith of Bartimaeus that gives us hope. We must be ready for when we hear the call, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." When Jesus ask us, "What do you want me to do for you", what is it we will say to him? Ponder!
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 21, 2018

The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
THE SON OF MAN DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED BUT TO SERVE AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.
 
Our readings this Sunday give us three different views of the suffering servant - the one who will give his life as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of the people (our sins.) The image of the blameless lamb that is sacrificed in atonement for sins is as old as the bible itself.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 51:10-11), we hear an excerpt from Isaiah's fourth Song of the Suffering Servant. Reading this passage in light of the resurrection of Jesus, it is clear that Jesus is this "servant who shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.
 
The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 10:35-45), we hear the incredible request by James and John to share in Jesus' glory. Even after multiple references by Jesus of his impending passion and death, they just didn't get it. Jesus responded by asking them, "Can you drink the cup that I drink?" "We can", they readily replied. Little did they know that indeed they would.
 
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared."
 
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
 
Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 4:14-16), the author compares Jesus to the great high priest who offered sacrifice once each year on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. Because our "great high priest" has offered himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (Once, for all), we can approach Jesus with the confidence that he understands our suffering as well.
 
Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
 
Sometimes, like the apostles James and John, we may fail to understand the significance of the passion and death of Jesus for the atonement of our sins. Sometimes, we may act as if we haven't been saved, absent of the profound joy that salvation brings. Perhaps we can do better.
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 14, 2018

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
What Must I Do?GO, SELL WHAT YOU HAVE AND GIVE TO THE POOR
 
Our readings this Sunday remind us that achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.
 
In our first reading (Wisdom 7:7-11), King Solomon prayed and the Spirit of Wisdom came to him. He preferred the Spirit of Wisdom over all wealth, power, pleasure and prestige. And yet, all good things came to him through Wisdom.
 
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 10:17-30), we hear of a righteous young man who wished to be saved. He went away sad because his possessions meant more to him than salvation itself. Jesus taught his disciples that wealth and possessions were a distraction that could lead them away from the Kingdom of God.
 
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
 
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 4:12-13), we learn that the Word of God (Jesus) penetrates our very soul. Nothing is hidden from him. It is he who knows all and it is to him we must render an account.
 
Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
 
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us our possessions will not save us, only God can save us. Our attachment to the things of this world will distract us from complete dependence and obedience to God. It may be time to consider - Do our possessions possess us? Or can we detach our selves from the things of this world to focus completely on the Kingdom God?
 
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