Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Parish
Monaca, Pennsylvania

Scriptural Insight
Greetings from the Pastoral Associate for the...

Second Sunday of Advent [12/10/17]

Mark's Gospel is the first account of the Gospel to name itself
gospel or good news of Jesus the Messiah. The Jewish people hoped for the final age of salvation by envisioning God acting through a chosen one or messiah. Mark announces the good news: in Jesus, the Christ, the longawaited saving act of God has begun.

Mark refers to several prophecies that Christians saw 'fulfilled in Jesus Christ'. Isaiah had proclaimed God's coming in power to free the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Since the people believed that God is personally present and acting in the 'word of the lord' spoken through a prophet, they knew that divine comfort would certainly come. Mark announces the fullness of God's word of comfort and saving power: Jesus the Messiah, who brings freedom from captivity to sin and death.

Mark also refers to the prophecy of Malachi, who describes a 'messenger' who will prepare the way of God's anointed one, appearing in the form of the earlier prophet Elijah. Mark interprets this messenger as John the Baptist, dressed just like Elijah 'in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist'. (Mark 1:6)

In introducing his Gospel account, Mark shows repeatedly that indeed 'the word of our God stands forever'. God's powerful word, spoken through various prophets of old, comes to fullness in Jesus. In him, God begins the final act of re-creation and salvation. God is present and at work feeding his flock and holding them close. What we are asked to do is to speak with boldness and confidence from our faith in God who comes with power and might. To devote ourselves to a life of holiness putting our all into love and service of God and neighbor, then we can truly cry out at the top of our voice.

Christ's Peace,
Deacon Tony


First Sunday of Advent [12/3/17]

The Liturgical Season of Advent
The Advent season marks the time of spiritual preparation by the faithful before Christmas. It spans four Sundays and up to four weeks of preparation. This year we only celebrate three full weeks as the 4th Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve.

The celebration of Advent is not only one of preparation, but should also be considered a time of fasting and penance. In the early days of the Church,
Advent was a period of preparation for the Feast of the Epiphany, a day when converts were baptized; so the Advent season was very similar to Lent with an emphasis on prayer and fasting which lasted three weeks and was later extended to forty days.

We must remember the importance of the Advent season, to focus on the coming of our Lord. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the two-fold meaning of the Lord's coming: when the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, She makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviors first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (524).

We reflect and celebrate the Lord's first coming into the world and we reflect on the great mystery of the
Incarnation of the Lord, when He humbled Himself, by taking on our humanity and came to free us from sin. Thus, we recall in the Creed we recite each Sunday stating: "He will come again to judge the living and the dead." We must be ready to greet Him.

Advent Wreath was introduced in the early 1500s. The wreath is a circle which has no beginning or end. We reflect on how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity of God's plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life. The wreath is supposed to be made of fresh plant material because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death and resurrection. Three candles are purple, symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because our preparation is half-way finished.

The light represents Christ who entered this world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way of righteousness. The progression of lighting the candles shows our readiness to meet the Lord. It is suggested that each family have an
Advent Wreath, find time each day for praying as a family and have a member of the family light the candle each night for that special prayer time. This tradition should help us grow in love as we increase our longing for Christ our Savior and rejoice in His presence and welcoming the light of His truth.

Christ's Peace,
Deacon Tony


Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [11/26/17]

Today is the final Sunday of the liturgical year which is the Feast of Christ the King. Our Gospel reading shows how we must live as disciples of Christ. We are to live as Christ lives. We are to love as He loves. We are to reach out to those in need as He does. We must be good shepherds as He is. This sounds like a major task. The true meaning is that we must simply be open to caring for others in every way possible.

The Gospel shows us many possibilities of how we can reach out to those in need. We can support our St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry. We can welcome visitors, give clothing to those in need and visit the sick and our shut ins. We must remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes being a good shepherd can be difficult. It depends on where we see the need and that may call for courage. We must also be alert in seeing how we can reach out to others. When we serve the poor, we are serving the Christ of our faith. If we truly think about it, we are also seeing the humble kingship of Christ. We are not being asked to do mighty things although sometimes it might seem that way. Sometimes just a simple gesture can go a long way. It does not have to be something big, but sometimes God might ask that of us. Often, it is just something simple.

There is only one way to ensure that there will always be oil in our lamps and that we will continue to bear fruit as we await for the return of the master. By loving one another, we are also showing Him love, then even as we wait and watch for His return, the King already reigns among us.

Christ’s Peace,
Deacon Tony


Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [11/19/17]

Our Liturgical Year will be ending soon. We begin a 'New Year' with the 1st Sunday of Advent. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about the responsibility to bear fruit in our lives while we await his return.

This parable tells of a master and three servants going on a journey. The master entrusts his money to his servants before leaving. He divides the money unevenly, giving five talents to the first servant, two talents to the second and only one talent to the last. As the parable continues, we understand that the master intended the servants not only to keep the money safe, but to invest it. The money was meant to increase while the master was away.

The first two servants succeed in this endeavor. Both made profitable trades, thus doubling their money. But the last servant did not; he dug a hole in the ground and buried the money.

The first two are commended by the master, who pledged his trust in them by promising them future responsibilities and by inviting them to share in their master's joy. But the master is harsh with the last servant, as he hands the talent back to the master; he admits that he hid the talent out of fear. The master calls the servant 'wicked and lazy'. He asks why he did not even make a small effort to grow the money. He orders the money taken from him and given to the first servant. He then orders the last servant be thrown 'into the darkness outside, where there will wailing and grinding of teeth'.

The master's decision might seem harsh to us, but Jesus is trying to deliver a strong message. There is no room for fear in the kingdom of God. There are expectations for change and the bearing of fruit. Those who succeed, who bear fruit with what they have been given, will be given more!

As we begin to prepare for the season of Advent, we must ask ourselves, "What is Jesus asking of me while he is away? What has he given me that I am meant to use to bear fruit in this world? Am I willing to say yes to take the risks to do this?"

Identify something you feel Jesus is calling you to do but you have hesitated to do. What is holding you back? What are you afraid of? Doing nothing is like being the lazy servant, just sitting back and waiting. To be invited into God's kingdom we must always be like the first servant, willing to take on what God asks of us.

Christ's Peace,
Deacon Tony