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 - January 14, 2018

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Jesus calls his first disciples
SPEAK LORD, FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING
  
This Sunday's readings call us to be followers of Christ and to tell others about him.
 
In our first reading (1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19), we hear about Samuel, the  young man consecrated to God by his mother and in training under the high priest Eli. He had not yet encountered God and didn't recognize him when God called him in the night; but God was persistent. 
 
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am." Samuel ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me." "I did not call you, " Eli said. "Go back to sleep." So he went back to sleep. Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. "Here I am, " he said. "You called me." But Eli answered, "I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep."
 
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, "Here I am. You called me." Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel answered, "Speak, for your servant is listening." Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 1:35-42), we hear about disciples of John the Baptist who are seeking the Lord. John points them toward Jesus. Jesus invites them to "come and your will see." Andrew then goes to his brother Simon and tells him, "We have found the Messiah."
 
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" -- which translated means Teacher --, "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" -- which is translated Christ --. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas" -- which is translated Peter.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20), St. Paul tells us that immorality is contrary to life in Christ. You cannot follow Jesus and be an immoral person. 
 
Brothers and sisters: The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
 
God's call to each of us is personal, unique and persistent. Christ calls each of us to a unique life with him for a specific purpose. We learn by today's example that in order to find the Messiah, we must seek him. Then we must "go with him and see". Then we must go and tell others, "We have found the Messiah."
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Jan. 14, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - January 7, 2018

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

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

The Epiphany of the Lord  

LORD, EVERY NATION ON EARTH WILL ADORE YOU (Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13)
 
This Sunday is the Feast of the Epiphany (manifestation) of the Lord. It is a revelation not only of the child Jesus as the "newborn king of the Jews", but also that this child is not only King of the Jews, but also of "all the nations on earth."
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6), we hear the prophesy that Jerusalem will "rise up in splendor" and "be a light to the nations" (Gentiles). Caravans shall come bearing gold and frankincense. The fulfillment of this prophesy is what we hear of in today's Gospel reading.   
 
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
 
 
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD. 
 
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 2:1-12), we hear the story of the Maji coming from the east coming to do homage to the newborn King of the Jews. This is a sign of the universality of Christ's mission and the future acceptance of the Gentile world that Jesus is Son of the one true God, their savior.
 
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel." Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
 
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6), St. Paul proclaims the revelation that the Gentiles are "coheirs, members of the same body". This was hard to accept for many Jewish Christians who believed that Gentiles had to become Jews to be saved..
 
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
 
The word catholic means universal and refers to the undivided Christian Church throughout the world. Our readings today tell us that Christ came to save the entire world, not just the people of Jerusalem; and that Christ's love and mercy would come to be known and accepted throughout the world. The word Catholic is also a call for us Catholic Christians to BE the light by which others will walk.
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017
  • Click Here to learn more about the Epiphany of the Lord
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 31, 2017

The Feast of the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph - December 31, 2017

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Feast of the Holy Family  
AND OVER ALL THESE PUT ON LOVE, THAT IS THE BOND OF PERFECTION 
 
This Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Family; a solemnity established by Pope Benedict XV in 1921 because of the widespread breakdown of the family. The emphasis was to hold up the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the supreme example of Christian life. Could that be any less important today?
 
Our first reading (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14) can be summed up in six words - Honor thy father and thy mother. It is a prescription for love and respect within the family.
 
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
 
My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins - a house raised in justice to you.
   
In our Gospel reading (Luke 2:22-40), we hear the beautiful canticle of Simeon, as Joseph and Mary fulfilled the religious law of presenting the first-born son to the Lord in the temple. Simeon, and the prophetess Anna, recognized the baby Jesus as the "Christ of the Lord", the Messiah. 

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted -and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
 
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
In our Epistle reading (Colossians 3:12-21), St. Paul offers a lesson in the virtues that would thrive within a Christian family - "And over all these put on love."
 
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
 
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
 
From the beginning of creation, God has established the family as the model of the love that exists between the Father and the Son - a love so powerful as to form an entirely third person, the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a family unit. The virtues, the mutual love and respect alive in the Trinity is the ideal we are all called to. Be it the family unit we are born into or the family at work or church or school or social group, we are all called to these same virtues. "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017
  • Click Here to learn m ore about the Feast of the Holy Family

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 24 & 25, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Advent / Christmas Day

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
 
Because this section will deal with readings for both the fourth Sunday of Advent AND Christmas day, the introductions will be somewhat abbreviated. Please see the links at the bottom of this section to read the full readings for both Masses.
 
Fourth Sunday of Advent:
This is our last Sunday of Advent. As we get close to Christmas and the birth our Lord Jesus, the Church seeks to remind us that these events were part of God's saving plan from the beginning of time and foretold centuries before. With great expectation and hope, the people of Judah awaited their savior. Now, that hope is about to be fulfilled.
 
In our first reading (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14-15), the prophet Nathan relates to King David what God had promised - that his heir would spring up from his loins and would inherit his kingdom, which will last forever. Thus, all would know that the promised Messiah would come from the house of David.
 
When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you." But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: "Go, tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?'
 
"It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. . . . The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever."
 
In our Epistle reading (Romans 16:25-27), we hear a short hymn of glory (doxology) at the conclusion of St. Paul's letter to the Romans. 
 
Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.
 
Our Gospel reading (Luke 1:26-38) is an account of the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Son of God.
 
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
 
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
 
Christmas Day (all liturgies will use the same readings from the Mass at night)
 
Our readings for Christmas draw a direct connection between what Isaiah prophesied more than 700 years before Christ was born ("For a child is born to us . . .") and what took place that Christmas night when the prophesy was fulfilled in all its humble glory.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 9:1-6), we hear the prophesy of Isaiah that is proclaimed every Christmas eve night - God's own Son will come to deliver us - as Prince of Peace.
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.
 
". . . . For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David's throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
 
Our Gospel reading (Luke 2:1-14) is the account of Jesus' humble birth as Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census of the house of David. The first to bear witness were the lowly shepherds from the surrounding hillsides.
 
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
 
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
 
In our Christmas Epistle (Titus 2:11-14), St. Paul leads us to remember that Christ promised to come again and will deliver us from all lawlessness. He teaches us how to live while we await our "blessed hope".
 
Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.
 
The birth of the Messiah, the anointed one of God, was not just something that happened long ago. It was an event foretold for centuries and awaited fervently by the people of Israel. From the moment of Jesus' birth to his tragic yet triumphant death, he was the embodiment of humility, patience and love. It is how he calls us to live in this age, "temperately, justly and devoutly". 
 
We wish for you this Christmas season all the blessings of the Messiah, brought to life on this Christmas night so long ago. May the miracle of Christmas be born anew in our hearts this day and every day as we live out our calling as baptized Catholic Christians - Priests, Prophets and Kings..
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2017

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

The Third Sunday in Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Gaudete Sunday
GAUDETE IN DOMINO SEMPER (REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS)

The term Gaudete (Sunday) is taken from the first word of the entrance antiphon (introit) of today's Mass. The Church seeks to remind us that our waiting is a cause for joy and rejoicing because of the Hope we have in the promise of the Lord's coming. The theme of OUR readings this Sunday is Rejoice, the Lord is near!
 
Our first reading (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11) is a call to rejoice in the promise of the Lord's salvation. This is a promise that Jesus himself proclaimed as being fulfilled in his ministry. In the Gospel of Luke (4:16-22)there is the story of when Jesus visited a synagogue in his home town. After reading the words of Isaiah that we hear in today's first reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll, sat down and said to the people "Today, this passage is fulfilled in your hearing". 
 
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.
 
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations
 
In last Sunday's Gospel, we heard Mark's introduction of John the Baptist. This Sunday, we hear from the Gospel of John (1:6-8, 19-28) as John the Baptist is even more clearly defined. "He was not the light but came to testify to the light."
 
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
 
And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, "Who are you?" He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Christ." So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?" He said: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'" as Isaiah the prophet said." Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie." This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,where John was baptizing.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24), St. Paul instructed his readers in how to live in waiting for the Lord, living in Hope, with a joyful heart. It is a lesson even more pertinent in today's world.
 
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.
 
May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it..
At our midway point in Advent, we pause to rejoice that the Lord is near. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to captives, release to prisoners and a year of favor of the Lord (Jubilee year), when all debts will be forgiven and even the poorest of creation will receive a clean slate and a fresh start. Our Hope is palpable. It is not a wish like hoping to win the lottery. It is an expectation, founded in faith and nourished through the love of our God. We indeed have cause to rejoice. Would it be that we could heed St. Paul's call, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing."
  • Click Here to learn more about Gaudete Sunday 
  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 10, 2017

The Second Sunday of Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
Second Sunday of Advent
BE EAGER TO BE FOUND WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH BEFORE HIM, AT PEACE

In our second Sunday in Advent, our scripture readings call us to a time of preparation, a time when the Lord will come "with power", yet "like a shepherd feeding his flock". Even, as a defenseless infant in the arms of his mother.

In our first reading (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11), God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, offering words of comfort. Their time of exile is almost over and Israel will be delivered from their bondage of slavery in a foreign land.

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.
 
A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
 
Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
 
In our Gospel reading (Mark 1:1-5), we hear from the opening of Mark's gospel. Mark introduces John the Baptist using the words of Isaiah, as a messenger to "prepare the way of the Lord." Then he introduces Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy in a call to repentance and preparation for when the Lord will come to deliver us from the bondage of sin, baptizing with the Holy Spirit.
 
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
 
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In our Epistle reading (2 Peter 3:8-14), we are called to prepare for the final coming of the Lord and to live our lives as "to be found without spot or blemish before him."

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.
 
Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
 
Our time of preparation for the coming of the Lord is indeed a journey through the desert. A time of dryness yet anticipation for a time when our guilt is expiated and our Lord comes like a shepherd. "In his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom." May we ponder St. Peter's call, "conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God."
 
Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 3, 2017

The First Sunday of Advent

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
First Sunday of Advent
BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT!

The word "Advent" comes from the Latin words "ad" (to) and "venire" (come). In these next four weeks, we prepare our hearts and our world to receive the coming of Christ, while at the same time keeping mindful of the time when Christ will come a second time. "Be Watchful" is the mantra of Advent.

Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (IS 63:16-17, 19, 64:2-7)comes from a time when the Jews were returning from exile in the 6th century BC, only to find their temple and nation in ruins. Isaiah's prayerful lament is a plea to the Father to come, and return his chosen people to right relationship with their God. Isaiah closes his prayer with an act of complete surrender, "We are the clay and you the potter". Could it be that Jesus is the answer to Isaiah's prayer.

You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.

Now that we are in a new liturgical year, our Gospel readings will mostly be taken from the Gospel of Mark. Our Gospel passage (Mark 13:33-37) is yet another reminder to be watchful for the master's return.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"

Our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) comes from the opening of St. Paul's letter to the Church in Corinth. In Paul's greeting of thanksgiving, he reminds us that God has already given us every spiritual gift to sustain us as we wait for the revelation of Jesus Christ. Not the least of these gifts are the Mass and the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called

We might tend to think that the only "advent" of Christ would be at Christmas and at the end times; but there are countless advents every day, every week, every month. Advents of Jesus in the Eucharist, advents of the Spirit through insights during Mass or during prayer. Sometimes, these advents are lost on us simply because we are not aware, not watchful, not attuned to the Spirit knocking on the door of our hearts. May we be, in this season of Advent, watchful, alert and attuned. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 26, 2017

The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
 
LORD, WHEN DID WE SEE YOU HUNGRY AND FEED YOU? 

In this last Sunday in our liturgical year, the Church celebrates the universal kingship of Jesus and the end times when "the Son of Man comes in his glory". As we get ready to prepare for the first coming of Christ in the nativity (Advent), the Church turns our attention to the final judgement when Christ will come in his glory to judge all nations.

In our first reading (Ezekiel 34:P11-12, 15-17), the Lord God promises both comfort and justice when he himself will come and rescue his scattered sheep while judging harshly those shepherds (leaders of Israel) who have fattened themselves at the expense of their flock.

Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD, I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.


In our Gospel reading (Matthew 31-46), Jesus concludes his "end times discourse", which we have been reading the past few Sundays, with a vivid description of his second coming. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory", Jesus will judge the nations according to their actions. The righteous will be astonished to learn that in caring for the needs of others, they were ministering to the Lord.

Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
 
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

In our epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28), St. Paul proclaims Christ's death, resurrection and coming again as the new "Adam". He talks about those who "belong to Christ" being raised at his coming, and then the end, when all nations will be subjected to the King.

Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

Both our first reading and Gospel use the metaphor of the separation of goats and sheep as the final judgement. It is a distinction possibly lost on us, but not on the original audience of these readings. Sheep are meek, gentle and defenseless, totally dependent on their shepherd for their protection and nourishment. They know their masters voice and will follow him anywhere. Goats, on the other hand, are strong willed, quick tempered and independent. They tend not to follow their goatherd and are not easily led. In a sense, sheep are poor in spirit, goats are the opposite. Christ is our shepherd, we are his sheep.

  • Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 19, 2017

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

The Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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