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 - January 20, 2019

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU
 
This Sunday, we begin what is called "Ordinary Time". The word "ordinary" does not mean normal or unimportant. In liturgy, it means ordered or numbered, from the Latin root ordinalis. It is the time between the high seasons of Christmas and Easter. And so, the readings for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time remind us that God's love for us is like a sacred marriage covenant, like a young man's love for his bride, exuberant, with an abundance of generosity.
 
Our first reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) is from a time when the Israelites were returning to Jerusalem after their long exile in Babylon. They were rebuilding their city of ruin. Isaiah's words gave them hope in the future, that God still loved them and would pour out his love upon them - "As a young man marries a virgin.".
 
For Zion's sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you "Forsaken," or your land "Desolate," but you shall be called "My Delight," and your land "Espoused." For the LORD delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
 
In our Gospel reading (John 2:1-11), we hear John describe the miracle of the wedding feast of Cana as the first of Jesus' "signs" or miracles. Jesus may have chosen this miracle and this setting to manifest his glory because of its corollary to the covenant relationship with God and for the overabundance of his love. Jesus could have made ordinary wine, but he chose to make the choicest wine. He could have made one jar, but he made six. It should also be noted, the trust his mother had in Jesus when she simply said, "Do whatever he tells you."
 
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter."
 
So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from - although the servers who had drawn the water knew -, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), St. Paul reminds us that God, through his Holy Spirit, is the giver of all gifts. Each one of us has (at least) one spiritual gift from the Spirit, to be used in service to God and others. The gifts are all different as the Spirit chooses, "but one and the same Spirit produces all of these."
 
Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
 
Imagine if we lived in a town with all gas stations and no grocery stores or drug stores. How difficult life would be if God only gave one type of spiritual gift. We should rejoice and give thanks for the wide variety charisms the Spirit gives to his loved ones. It is the mosaic that portrays the image of a God so in love with his chosen ones that, "As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you." And so what shall we do? Do whatever he tells you.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Readings - January 13, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
 
YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON, WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED.
 
Today's celebration of the Baptism of the Lord marks the conclusion of the miracle of Christmas. God entered humanity at Jesus' birth and now again, God enters into humanity in his baptism. Jesus stood in line with sinners to be baptized by John. "For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." (1 cor 5:21).
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7), we hear the first of four "servant songs of Isaiah". Four peoms seen by the early Church and ever since to refer to the Christ. In this first poem, it is God's selection of the Servant who would be a "covenant of the people, a light for the nations."
 
Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
 
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22), we hear of the baptism of Jesus, what happened before and what happened after. John proclaims "one mightier than I is coming". After Jesus is baptized and praying, the Father and the Spirit make known their participation in this event. From this point on, Jesus will baptize with the "Holy Spirit and fire", preaching, teaching and healing.
 
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
 
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
 
In our Epistle reading (Acts 10:34-38), we hear an excerpt of a speech given by St. Peter to a Gentile Centurian, Cornelius, as he was about to baptize him. Peter tells how Jesus, from his baptism by John, was anointed by the Holy Spirit and went about doing good and healing. This baptism is now open to all peoples.
 
Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
 
In our readings today, we are reminded that Baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit. We are reminded of our own baptism - our own anointing by the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet and king. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, "doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil." This is a mission we would have no ability to do except by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - January 6, 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
THEY PROSTRATED THEMSELVES AND DID HIM HOMAGE
 
This the Feast of the Epiphany. According to Merriam-Webster, an Epiphany is "a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something." In this case, it is the essential nature of God's salvation entering into our world as an infant, destined to be King, both divine and human.
 
In our first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6), we hear the visit of the Maji foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was writing to the Jewish people as they were rebuilding their city and temple after their exile in Babylon. He offered comfort and assurance that the spiritual city of Jerusalem to come would "rise up in splendor." Caravans from the east would come "bearing gold and frankincense." This prophesy would be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
 
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 account (Matthew 2:1-12), we hear the story of the "Magi from the east" (most likely non-Jewish astrologers of a priestly or noble class) who were following a star at its rising (traditionally denoting the birth of a new king). The gifts they brought signified the nature of this newborn king - Jesus' kingship, his divinity and his humanity. Gold was the traditional gift brought to a new king; frankincense was a perfume signifying deity and myrrh was an embalming spice, indicating Jesus' humanity, that he would die.
 
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 2:2-3, 5-6), St. Paul is very clear in describing his direct revelation from the Holy Spirit that the Gentiles are "coheirs, members of the same body." This attests to the universality of Christ's mission, that Jerusalem's "sons come from afar."
 
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.
 
Today's Epiphany story is significant in two ways, first, who came to give homage to the Lord and second, what they brought. As a priestly or noble class from the east, the Maji helped fulfill Isaiah's prophesy and signified that Jesus did not come only for the Jews of Jerusalem but for everyone. Their gifts and homage signified their realization that Jesus is Lord of all.
 
We might ponder, what gifts are we to bring to this newborn King? How is it that we prostrate ourselves before him?
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 30, 2018

The Solemnity of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT I MUST BE IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE?
 
This Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this important solemnity, the Church seeks to show us what makes a family holy – how a family can live a holy life in the midst of daily struggles. Our two examples today are not perfect, idyllic families but fully human with all their ups and downs. Sustaining them, though, is a deep faith and trust in God.
 
Our first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel (1 SM 1:20-22, 24-28) is the story of Hannah, a woman who prefigures Mary and Elizabeth. Barren, she prayed for a son, promising she would dedicate him to God. In today’s reading, she bore a son Samuel. When he was weaned, she and her husband Elkanah brought him to the temple and gave him to the high priest Eli and dedicated him to God. Samuel was destined for greatness and was the prophet who anointed the shepherd David to be King of Israel.
 
In those days Hannah conceived, and at the end of her term bore a son whom she called Samuel, since she had asked the LORD for him. The next time her husband Elkanah was going up with the rest of his household to offer the customary sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vows, Hannah did not go, explaining to her husband, “Once the child is weaned, I will take him to appear before the LORD and to remain there forever; I will offer him as a perpetual nazirite.”
 
Once Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh. After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull, Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: “Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” Hannah left Samuel there.
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 2:41-52) is the story we know well as The Finding in the Temple. It is a story of the tension of an adolescent Jesus, full of zeal to be about his father's business, and yet very much under the control and loving protection of his parents. In the end, he returned with them to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents, while his mother pondered all these events in her heart.
 
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
 
In our Epistle reading (1 John 3:1-2, 21-24), St. John gives us a clue to our destiny, “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him.” John’s letter calls us to holiness, to love one another, to have confidence, to believe in the name of Jesus.
  
Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. And so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
 
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.
 
Our family is God’s gift through which we journey back home to the Father; and our parents, brothers, sisters, and siblings in Christ are all on the same journey with us. May we pray for guidance and follow the example set for us by the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. "See what love the Father has bestowed on us."
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 23, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

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

 

HE SHALL BE PEACE!
 
In this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, our readings shift from the prophesies of the end times to the coming birth of Jesus and his true identity as the new David, the King and Priest who will rule over Israel forever - the new David who was promised by God so long ago. (2 Samuel 9:12)
 
In our first reading (Micah 5:1-4), the prophet Micah proclaimed the role of Bethlehem, the ancestral home of King David, as the birthplace of the savior Messiah, who would restore the children of Israel from the scattered lands. This is the prophesy referred to by the chief priests and scribes when asked by Herod where the Messiah was to be born. (Matthew 2:4-6)
 
Thus says the LORD: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, and the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel. He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace
 
In our Gospel reading (Luke 1:39-45), we hear of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth was the first to proclaim the child in Mary's womb as "my Lord" as Elizabeth's own child in her womb "leaped for joy" at the sound of Mary's voice.
 
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
 
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 10:5-10), we hear of Jesus's offering his own body in suffering for the sins of the world once, for all, in contrast to the repeated and imperfect sacrifices of the priests under the old law. "Behold, I come to do your will, O God."
 
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"
 
First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in." These are offered according to the law. Then he says, :Behold, I come to do your will." He takes away the first to establish the second. By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
 
And so we take heart, it won't be long now. Our Christ is near, and when he comes, He Shall Be Peace! He is the source of the only peace that will rest our weary souls. May we take that peace into our hearts and may it rule our lives and our households. "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King." --Andrae Crouch
 
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - December 16, 2018

The Third Sunday of Advent

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

The Second Sunday of Advent

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

The First Sunday of Advent

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

The Tritry-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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