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 - July 15, 2018

The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
The Mission of the Twelve

In last Sunday's readings, we learned about our calling as prophets, to speak God's truth to those around us. This Sunday's readings continue that theme as Jesus sends his twelve apostles on a mission to preach repentance and to cure the sick.

In our first reading  (Amos 7:12-15), we hear the prophet Amos being rejected by the priest Amaziah. Amos responded that he was an ordinary shepherd called from following the flock by God.

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, "Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple." Amos answered Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel."

In our Gospel reading  (Mark 6:7-13), Jesus sends his twelve apostles on a mission of preaching and healing. They were to take nothing with them, relying totally on God and the community for their sustenance. Not everyone would accept their message.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick- no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14), we hear from the opening of Paul's letter to the Ephesian community. It is both a blessing and a teaching. In this passage, Paul teaches us that we are chosen by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ. In Christ, we are destined with the purpose of the will of God. We are called to glorify God with our lives.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
 
In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory.


As St. Paul tells us, we have been chosen before the foundation of the world. Chosen for what? To praise and glorify God with our lives, to preach God's truth by living and loving as God would have us do. And like the prophet Amos and the apostles, be prepared for what rejection will come our way. It is our destiny.

  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 15

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

The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

 

Rejection at Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6)
MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.

This Sunday, our readings call our attention to the trials and tribulations of the prophet. A prophet is someone called by God to speak God's truth, especially among the prophet's own people. Regardless of whether people listen, a prophet remains faithful to his or her calling when "They shall know a prophet has been among them." In the words of St. Therese of Calcutta, "God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful."

In our first reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5), Ezekiel tells us it is the Holy Spirit who has entered into him that enables him to speak on behalf of God and sends him on his mission among his own people, a "rebellious house". God tells him that whether or not they listen to him, "They shall know that a prophet has been among them."

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist-for they are a rebellious house - they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

In today's Gospel (Mark 6:1-6), Jesus, the ultimate prophet, returned to his home town and taught in the temple. They were "astonished" (not in a good way) at his words and deeds. "Where did this man get all this?" they asked. Even among his own kinfolk, Jesus was not accepted. In last Sunday's readings, we learned that faith is a key to the mercy of Jesus. That point is made again in today's Gospel as their lack of faith prevented Jesus from performing "any might deeds there."

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

In our Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), St. Paul instructs us that is precisely through our weaknesses and our afflictions that "the power of Christ may dwell" within us.

Brothers and sisters: That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
 
In case we are thinking that stories about prophets of old do not concern us directly, be reminded that through our own baptism, we are called to share in Christ's ministry as priest, prophet and king. Regardless of each of our individual callings and charisms, we are each called to be a prophet - to speak God's truth to those around us, especially among our own kind and within our own family. It is not up to us as to whether people listen. God wants us to be faithful to his truth and to speak it unabashedly. We are successful when they know that a prophet has been among them. "My grace is sufficient for you."
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 8

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

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass 
 
Little girl arise! (Mark 5:41)
DO NOT BE AFRAID; JUST HAVE FAITH.

Our readings for this Sunday ask us to consider God's plan for creation. While sin and death entered the world, Jesus is the means by which we overcome sin and death.

Our first reading for this Sunday (Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24) tells us "God did not make death." Here, the author means the full nature of death - physical and spiritual, complete separation from God for all eternity. This separation was brought to the world through the "envy of the devil." God's intention is that death is simply a falling asleep, as we will see in today's Gospel. And when we awake? Eternal life with our Father Creator awaits us.

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

In our Gospel reading (Mark 5:21-43), we hear two example's of Jesus' healing love, one nested within the other. In both events, the supplicant falls at the feet of Jesus, begging for his healing touch. First, Jairus, a wealthy synagogue official, pleads for Jesus to heal his daughter who is near death. While on the way, she dies but Jesus tells Jairus, "Do not be afraid; just have faith" and insists, "the child is not dead but asleep." In the second event, a hemorrhagic woman, a social outcast, merely touches the cloak of Jesus, in complete faith that she would be healed. "He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you." 
 
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
 
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to Jesus, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
 
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
 
In our Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 8:7,9, 13-15), St. Paul exhorts his beloved community to excel in generosity. He uses Jesus' example of trading his richness for the poverty of death, so that we would be rich in relationship with God. As such, we should share our abundance with others.
 
Brothers and sisters: As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.

Did you notice that Jesus is an equal opportunity healer? Both the wealthy, powerful synagogue official (Jairus) and the penniless social outcast (the hemorrhagic woman) were powerless to change the outcome of their situation. Jesus did not look upon their social status or wealth, but simply their faith. Faith is the key that unlocks Jesus' mercy. We are called to "not be afraid but have faith." We are invited to fall at the feet of Jesus with our problems, fears, and our sickness with utter and complete faith. What is it in our lives that we need to place at the feet of Jesus?
  • Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 1

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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - June 24, 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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

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

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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

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

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

Pentecost Sunday

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

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

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

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

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

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

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