St. Rita Roman Catholic Church
1008 Maple Dr.
Webster, NY 14580
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 - November 18, 2018

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
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 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 has unfolded methodically since the beginning of time. Nothing is happenstance for God. The ultimate triumph of God has been ordained since the beginning of time.
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - November 11, 2018

The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Our readings this Sunday remind us that achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.
In our first reading (Wisdom 7:7-11), King Solomon prayed and the Spirit of Wisdom came to him. He preferred the Spirit of Wisdom over all wealth, power, pleasure and prestige. And yet, all good things came to him through Wisdom.
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 10:17-30), we hear of a righteous young man who wished to be saved. He went away sad because his possessions meant more to him than salvation itself. Jesus taught his disciples that wealth and possessions were a distraction that could lead them away from the Kingdom of God.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 4:12-13), we learn that the Word of God (Jesus) penetrates our very soul. Nothing is hidden from him. It is he who knows all and it is to him we must render an account.
Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us our possessions will not save us, only God can save us. Our attachment to the things of this world will distract us from complete dependence and obedience to God. It may be time to consider - Do our possessions possess us? Or can we detach our selves from the things of this world to focus completely on the Kingdom God?
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An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - October 7, 2018

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
In our readings this Sunday, we hear about the sanctity of marriage; the enduring bond between a husband and wife as God's plan from day-one.
In our first reading from the very first book of the Bible (Genesis 2:18-24), we hear God say, "It is not good for the man to be alone". Unlike the animals, she is of his flesh, his coequal partner. We are created to live in covenant relationship with God and with one another.
The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name.  The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman, ' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 10: 2-16), We hear Jesus' teaching on marriage and divorce and attitude toward children. Jesus goes all the way back to the creation account in Genesis to describe God's plan and intent for us. He then adds the reverence for children as part of that plan.
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" They replied, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 2;9-11), we learn that Jesus was made one of us ("lower than the angels") so that he might lead us to salvation. It is through his suffering that he consecrates us, that is he dedicates us to the sacred purpose of service to God.
Brothers and sisters: He "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels, " that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers.”
Jesus makes clear to us in today's Gospel that marriage is a union made by God and is unbreakable. God is always the third party to the union of every husband and wife. It is within the cocoon of this union that children are brought into the world and nurtured. This has been God's plan since creation. It is intended for our happiness.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings - September 30, 2018

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Our readings this Sunday remind us that the Holy Spirit is an equal opportunity bestower. The community of God's people is not an exclusive club where only the "in-crowd" is recognized. As Moses said to Joshua, "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!"
In our first reading (Numbers 11:25-29), we hear of 70 elders upon whom the Spirit had descended to assist Moses in his mission. When Joshua discovered that two others had also received the Spirit, he was jealous. Moses set him straight.
The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied. Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, " Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses' aide, said, "Moses, my lord, stop them." But Moses answered him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"
Our Gospel reading (Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48) echoes our first reading wherein the young apostle John was indignant that someone not of their group would dare to exorcise demons in the name of Jesus. "Do not prevent him." replied Jesus. He then went on to instruct them further on the obligations of discipleship.
At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"
In our Epistle reading (James 5:1-6), the author calls a warning to those whose ill-gotten wealth came at the expense of others and to those who use their wealth to fatten themselves instead of for a more equitable society.
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.
Whether it be the rich or the members of the "in-crowd", those who see their membership in the body of Christ as an exclusive club have been put on notice. God's wealth and God's spirit is to be shared with everyone, especially the lowest, the poorest, the weakest - "these little ones", as Jesus called them. Our blessings, whatever they may be, are meant to be shared. It is only in giving that we truly receive.

An Introduction to the Sunday Scripture Readings - September 23, 2018

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
In our readings this Sunday, we hear of the sinful, jealous, prideful nature of man contrasted with the wisdom and gentle love of God in caring for his chosen ones.
In our first reading from the Book of Wisdom (2:12,17-20), we hear of the wicked who put the "just one" to the test, eerily prophetic of the disdain the Jewish leaders had for Jesus. The evil designs of wicked people have always been with us.
The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 9:30-37), Jesus, for the second time, predicts his passion and death. His disciples just don't understand. They argue instead about who among them will be the greatest. Jesus responds with further teaching about the nature of discipleship. He uses a lowly child as an example of servant leadership.
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Our Epistle reading (James 3:16 - 4:3), St. James calls out the wickedness and disorder that seeks to destroy us and offers the antidote - peace, gentleness and mercy. The futility of worldly wisdom vs. the "wisdom from above.".
Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Over the next several weeks, we will hear Jesus' teaching on the nature of true discipleship. It began last week with "deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me". It continues this week with "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." This was, and is so contrary to the wisdom of this world. Here is an anonymous quote that puts it into perspective, "If you seek greatness, you will be disappointed. Rather, seek to serve others and greatness will find you." May we lose ourselves in the service of others.

An Introduction to Sunday's Scripture Readings

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
One theme found in our readings for this Sunday is the suffering servant, vindicated by God. It is not the picture the disciples had for the messiah. They expected a victorious, triumphant leader. No no, said Jesus. The messiah is to be much like the suffering servant of Isaiah found in today's first reading.
In our first reading (Isaiah 50:5-9), we listen as Isaiah prophesied the role of the suffering servant that would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He meekly and willing submited to his suffering, yet with full faith that God would deliver him.
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?
In our Gospel reading (Mark 8:27-35), we hear a two-part exchange between Jesus and his disciples. First, Peter, speaking for the disciples, proclaimed, "You are the Christ." But then completely misunderstood the role of the Christ. Peter rebuked Jesus when he predicted his passion and death. Jesus responded by teaching them the paradox of discipleship - embrace your cross.
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
In our Epistle reading (James 2:14-18), St. James brings clarity to the age-old discussion of whether we are justified by faith alone or by faith and good works. James' argument is that true faith must be expressed through good works. Without works, faith is dead. Good deeds is the evidence that faith exists.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, " but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
Our world today is suffering; our Church today is suffering; we and our families today are suffering. One thing we might learn today is that by embracing our cross, in union with Jesus' passion and death, we find meaning and purpose in our suffering. May we embrace the concept of redemptive suffering, wherein we find redemption in our suffering. May we take up our cross and follow him.