4th Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 12, 2019
Are you a good listener? I should probably ask your spouse, or your friends, or your children that question. Listening well is difficult, it is a skill that needs to be developed. It is not just about hearing the words, it is about hearing deeply into the heart, into the meaning.
Good listening is a key to marriage, a key to any community, and it is a key to a good spiritual life. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Being a good Catholic requires being a good listener. Are you listening to the voice of the shepherd, are you listening to the voice of Jesus?
Years ago when I was Vocation Director in the Diocese, I had to assist people discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life. They struggled to know if this was really a call from the Lord. But, the difficulty is that this call usually does not come in some dramatic fashion or in a loud voice. Sometimes people are looking for some sign. But, the voice of the Lord comes in a much more subtle way, often only recognized in complete silence.
How do we listen for the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Listen to the people in our life: Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, the poor, refugees. Are we listening to the cry of need in the people within our family? Are we listening to the cry of need in people within our community? Jesus speaks to us at times through the needs of others. Often we who call ourselves Christians are not listening to the voice of Jesus when it is not convenient, when it comes through the disabled, the child with autism, refugees, or one person quietly in anguish within our own home.
Listen to creation: Jesus is the face of God, the source of all creation. Therefore, we also able to hear the voice of the Lord in creation. Latest report indicates that up to 1 million plants and animals could go extinct in the near future. We know the effects of climate change that we face. Are we listening to the cry of our earth. The voice of the Lord is heard in creation as well.
Listen to the Scriptures: Each Sunday we listen to the Word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures. Many also take time at home to read the Gospels. When we are listening to the Scriptures we need to let Jesus speak to our heart.
In Silence: To listen to someone, we need to stop talking for a moment. We need to shut off distractions, including our phones. Inner silence where we stop for a moment is the key to good listening. Silence is necessary in our life to hear the voice of the shepherd.
Listening is an important skill, it is a great gift we can offer to another person, it is the key to community and family. Good listening is also necessary to be a Christian. As Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the people in need within our life? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the cry of creation? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to our hearts in the Scriptures? Are we ever silent enough to hear the quiet voice of the shepherd calling within us?
Third Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 5, 2109
What is the key question for each Catholic to answer? It is not “what do you know” nor is it memorizing the Catechism. The key question for each one of us is, Do you love me? Our Catholic Faith is rooted in a relationship with the living God. Do you love Jesus?
So, how do we show love? Not always by words, most importantly it is our actions that reveal love. By caring for the one we love. Think of a parent hugging a struggling child. A grandparent watching for a grandchild. A friend quietly sitting and listening to a friend without judging. Much love is shown by actions, by caring for the one we love.
It is for this reason, that after Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me”, he follows that by the call to action, “Feed my sheep.” This is how we show our love for Jesus. Peter was asked, “Do you love me.” Then he was told, “Feed my sheep.”
In the Church, the Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, so the Pope has this call to love Jesus and to feed his sheep by his pastoral care of the Church. Bishops as successors of the Apostles are also called to love Jesus and feed his sheep by caring for the people in his Diocese. Priests and Deacons are called to love Jesus and feed his sheep in the parish or community where they serve.
Every baptized Catholic, each one of you, is called to love Jesus and to show that love by feeding his sheep. Some of you do it by caring for your children, or your grandchildren, or your students, or your friends, or the poor, those in need, lonely in our community.
The key question for each one of us as Catholics is “Do you love me?” We are to come to know and love Jesus. How do we come to know and love Jesus? We need to spend time reading the Gospels. When we are reading the Gospels, we are spending time with Jesus and coming to know him.
In the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we are spending time and being embraced by Jesus. In order to love Jesus we need to come to know him and spend time with him. Reading the Gospels and being with him in the Eucharist are ways for us to do this.
Then we need to show that love by caring for Jesus in the poor, the lonely, in our families, in our parish, in our community. When we care for someone in need within our world, we are following the call of Jesus, “feed my sheep.”
So, the key question for each Catholic is, “Do you love me?” In your heart, meet Jesus asking you that question directly to you, “Do you love me?” Then we will also hear that call of Jesus, “Feed my sheep.” For it is not words, but actions that reveal our answer to that question. When we care for someone in need, then we are feeding his sheep.
Go home this week and spend time reflecting on that question with Jesus, “Do you love me?” By your life how are you answering that question?
Second Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: April 28, 2019
Like Thomas, we come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe. The first appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thomas is not there with the others and so misses Jesus and does not believe. The following week, Thomas is there with the others and so he touches Jesus and he believes. He makes that great profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.”
We come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe. But, our faith calls us to act.
When the Risen Lord Jesus appears to the Apostles, he says to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We come to Mass to touch Jesus and have faith. But, then we are sent out by Jesus into the world.
What are we sent to do?
During Easter we listen to the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the experiences of the first believers after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, we heard that people were laying the sick in the street hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall on them. The Christian community, the early Church, was an instrument of healing. It made the mercy and healing of Jesus visible and concrete.
Jesus sends us out to be instruments of healing, instruments of peace, to bring God’s mercy into our world.
This past Easter Sunday morning, we saw a terrible act of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Several suicide bombings, some in Catholic Churches, killing hundreds and injuring more. The images remind us of the division, the hatred, the brokenness within the world.
Even within our families we find divisions, jealousies, even hatred. It is clear that our world, our communities, our families, are in need of healing, in need of peace, in need of mercy.
This Second Sunday of Easter is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a reminder of the Mercy of God. Reminder of our need for God’s mercy. Reminder of the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is essential, it is the power of God, forgiveness is necessary for there to be peace in our world, between religions, in the church, within families, in our own hearts.
Like Thomas, we come to this Mass each week to touch the Risen Lord Jesus and have our faith affirmed. Jesus then sends us out to be instruments of peace, instruments of healing, to bring God’s mercy into our world and into our families. Our world, our families, each of us, need healing, peace, mercy.
Each of us is called to be an instrument of peace, an instrument of God’s mercy. Even one act of forgiveness makes the world a better place. Have the courage to reject hatred, violence, division when our world offers you that path. Have the courage instead to embrace the mercy and forgiveness of God. Have the courage to be people and instruments of peace.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 21, 2019
Only love can bring true change for good. In our world, in our church, in our families, in any person. Only love can bring true change for good.
God did not use force, or violence, or power to bring about change. In fact, in Jesus we see God letting go of all force, all power, dying on a cross in a way of non-violence. In the
Resurrection we see the victory of love. It is not seen in the news, not recognized by most people, yet in the Resurrection we see that love changes and transforms history and our future.
God does not change us or change the world by force or violence or power. But, through love brings about the change that we celebrate at Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene is a key person and first to witness to the Resurrection. As first to experience the Resurrection and to witness to it, she is often referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus.
So, at his death, she is grieving, sad, lost, she is seen weeping. Yet, it was this love of Jesus that eventually allowed her to see beyond the suffering, beyond the loss, beyond the darkness. She meets the Risen Lord Jesus and sees the work of God’s love in the midst of the great darkness of that moment.
You and I as disciples of Jesus are called to change ourselves, to change the world. We are to challenge and upset the world. But, not by force, not by violence, not by power. We Christians must reject violence and force as a way to change others or to change the world. Like our God, we must only strive to bring change in others or in the world by the way of love.
Many grandparents, parents, spouses come to me sad about a grandchild or child or spouse who is no longer practicing their faith. They wish they could do something to change this person that they love. But, I have to remind them that we cannot bring someone to faith by force, by criticism, by power. I encourage them to pray for that person, pray for them with a heart full of love. Then love that person with a great love. For only love is able to bring change and lead people into the heart of God.
Mary Magdalene had such a great love for Jesus, you and I are called to the same deep love of Jesus. Then like Mary we will be able to see everyone and see all with the eyes of God. Then we will not become lost in evil, in darkness, in injustice, in suffering, in death. Like Mary we will see beyond all of these to the love and goodness of God.
The key to living joyfully in this world, even when faced with darkness and difficulties, is to fall in love with Jesus, with your whole heart. Then you will see in a new way. The key to assisting others to find God in their life is to love them with all your heart.
The death and Resurrection of Jesus shows us the way of God, that force, violence, power cannot bring about change for good, only love can bring about true change for good.
Fifth Sunday Of Lent – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 7, 2019
“I am about to do a new thing.” The Prophet Isaiah in our first reading says, “Do not remember the former things, the things of old. I am about to do a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”
This weekend is the Kick off for the Diocese of Hamilton One Heart, One Soul Campaign. Our parish is one of the pilot parishes beginning the Campaign. This is a great blessing for us since the Diocese is providing all of the resources and administration. 75% of all funds raised by our parish comes to us. The other 25% will go to special ministry needs in the Diocese, such as university campus ministry, prison ministry, hospital ministry and so on. For our parish, the funds will go directly towards our building project.
One Heart, One Soul refers to the vision of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, where all disciples worked together in unity, sharing all for the sake of the mission.
“I am about to do a new thing.”
Today our parish is about to do a new thing. We are part of an exciting mission, bringing together two communities and forming a new parish, St. Catherine of Siena. We will have the mission of building a new church and facilities that will become a centre of the Catholic community embracing a large portion of south Hamilton mountain. We will be planting the seeds that will produce much life years into the future.
But, this will require all of us to work together, to pray together, to serve together, and to share together. The final designs and city approvals for our new church are happening right now. We hope to begin the building in the next several months.
Therefore, this One Heart, One Soul Campaign of the Diocese of Hamilton comes at a perfect time for our parish.
“I am about to do a new thing.”
I came as Pastor to the newly formed St. Catherine of Siena Parish just over a year and a half ago. It was challenging at first, but I have to say that I feel very blessed here. You parishioners have impressed me with your faith, your spirit of prayer, your commitment to your parish. Thank you for your support, your prayers, your encouragement during my time here.
The new parish we are to form requires all of us to work together as one. A Catholic parish is called to be the Body of Christ. To bring the healing, mercy, teaching and Good News of Jesus Christ to a particular area. That is our mission.
In our Gospel today, the crowd drag a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They pointed out that the law allows for her to be stoned to death. Imagine the fear, the humiliation of this woman. Jesus calmly gives his famous response. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In the end, Jesus sets her free, with a call to holiness. Our Catholic parish should be a place not where people experience judgement, condemnation, humiliation, but rather, a place where we experience healing, being set free, and sent out with a new call to holiness.
“I am about to do a new thing.”
As the One Heart One Soul Campaign begins this weekend in our parish, we need to remember what type of parish we are called to become. A new church and facilities will only be meaningful if we are a parish community that reflects Jesus.
Now, I want to give you some information about this Campaign.
First of all, I am pleased to announce that even before the Campaign has officially started, our parish has already had a great start. As Pastor I was the first person to make a gift to the Campaign from our parish. Because I feel that I could not ask anything from you if I first of all did not commit to this myself. Also, because I have come to see what a wonderful mission we are involved with in the future plans of this parish.
Since that time though we have received one large donation that put us over $100,000. Also, a number of the volunteers working on the Campaign for our parish have already made their pledges. So, even before beginning, our parish is on its way to a very successful Campaign.
In the coming week, all registered families will receive a campaign packet in the mail. In the packet you will receive the following:
Case Statement: this explains the goals of the Campaign for our parish.
Request letter: This letter will request a specific amount to pledge to the campaign. The amount that is requested is simply a request. Do not feel hurt if it seems too high or too low. You are to reflect on this and pledge what you consider possible. The request is an invitation, not an expectation. Whatever gift you make will be received with gratitude.
A group of volunteers have been asked to reach out to some parish families to invite your participation in the Campaign. They are your fellow parishioners, please receive their calls warmly. It is not an easy thing to do to reach out for such a campaign. The volunteers do not know what amount you have been asked to consider. They will not know what you pledge, unless you tell them.
Unfortunately we do not have enough volunteers to reach out to every household, so most of you will receive a pledge card with a stamped, return envelope in your packet. Please return these in the mail as soon as you are able.
If you do not receive an appeal packet in the mail, please let us know at the parish office so we can get one to you. If you are not registered in the parish, now is a good time to be registered.
If you have any questions about pledging or the campaign, feel free to speak to me, Fr. Ross or the secretaries in our office.
I certainly encourage everyone to participate in this campaign, even if it is praying for the success of our effort. Every day I pray for this parish and for you parishioners. Hopefully each of you will also offer a prayer each day for the parish.
In the entrance of the church there is a banner with the logo for the One Heart, One Soul Campaign. Once you have made your pledge, sign that banner to indicate your support. There is no necessary amount to sign the banner.
I encourage you to go to the One Heart, One Soul Campaign web site. You can find it by going to our parish web site. In particular, I encourage you to watch the video that is very inspiring.
“I am about to do a new thing.”
Our support of this Campaign will be a sign of our desire to join in the new thing that God is doing right here in our community, in our parish. We are to join in this new thing with one heart and one soul.
Fourth Sunday Of Lent – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 31, 2019
”This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” This is probably not a passage of scripture you have prayed with before. But, I say it would be a good one for us to spend some time reflecting upon.
This was an accusation against Jesus, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” When someone says they do not go to Mass because there are hypocrites there, or when someone says these people should not be at church because they are bad sinners, this line about Jesus stands out for me. “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
What was Jesus like? What image of God did he reveal? What about us Catholics today, what about our parish? It should be a compliment if someone accuses us of welcoming sinners and eating with them! In fact, that is what we are doing right now.
During this time of Lent throughout the world and in our parish, there are many adults who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Well, what should someone know to become Catholic?
Perhaps they should know certain common prayers, know about the sacraments, Catholic moral teachings, the bible, key doctrines such as the Trinity, Jesus and so on.
I would say that knowing all of these things are useless unless they know one key thing in their heart. That they are loved by God, that they are a beloved child of God. Have they embraced the vision of God that Jesus reveals in this parable of the Prodigal Son? Jesus is saying that God is like the loving, merciful father in this parable who is always ready to receive us.
A person could study theology, know the Catechism of the Catholic Church by heart, memorize the Bible, but if they do not know in their heart this God of mercy then it falls short.
Do you know that you are the beloved child of God, are you able to accept all others as sons and daughters of God? The failure of the older son in the parable is revealed in the end when he says to the Father, “when this son of yours returns… “ He no longer is accepting the son as his brother.
A Catholic is not just someone who believes in God, but someone who believes in this God of boundless mercy.
What do you think is the hardest part about being a priest? In my experience, the most difficult thing about being a priest is to help people to believe that they are loved by God, a son or daughter of God, that God is ready to receive them with open arms. Like the lost son, many of us feel we are not worthy, surely God could not receive us back.
The second hardest thing about being a priest is to help people to believe that all others are loved by God! Like the elder son many of us are not able to recognize a brother or sister in certain people.
How many in our world are starving, longing for true love, to be understood, so many are empty inside. Like the son who left who was in a foreign land, hungry, alone. No one cared about him. We can always turn back, to be received by God, to our true home.
St. Paul says we are Ministers of Reconciliation. We are to help others to know the God of Mercy. Which God do others see and experience in us? God needs us to show the face of the loving father, the God of Mercy, help make the loving God of mercy known.
My father’s only advice and last advice to me before his death about the priesthood. “Be kind to the people.” Why? Probably he experienced a priest who was not kind to him. How many are not Catholic, have left the church, because they experienced a priest or a Catholic who did not reveal the face of the loving God of mercy?
So, it is a good thing if people were to say about you as a Catholic or about our parish, “They welcome sinners and eat with them.”
Third Sunday Of Lent – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
March 24, 2019
In New Zealand, a white supremacist terrorist attacked two mosques killing about 50 Muslims. Like most terrorists, he probably thought that he was doing a good thing. That this use of force and violence was justified in his mind.
The thinking that justified this extreme use of force and violence is unfortunately often embraced by leaders in our countries, often embraced by people within families. The idea that force and violence are justified in certain circumstances. But, we need to be clear that this can never be seen as the will of God. Force and violence are not the way of our God.
God is a gardener. Well, Jesus uses a parable in which God is like a gardener. There is a fig tree that has not been producing figs. So, the owner wants to cut it out and not waste the soil on it. But, the gardener says to give it one more year and he will dig around it, and put manure on it, and give it another chance. When Jesus says God is like a gardener, what is he saying about God?
God is patient. God is merciful. God’s gentle mercy and incredible patience. We human beings are not so patient with one another, we are very quick to judge, to condemn, to punish, to want to get rid of those who fail or oppose us. But, God is patient and full of mercy. God offers chance upon chance, offers mercy upon mercy.
We also heard in our First Reading today, the encounter of Moses with the Holy One in the burn-ing bush. Moses removes the sandals from his feet out of reverence for the Holy Ground he was on in the presence of the Holy One. After Jesus, we recognize each human being is Holy Ground. The Holy One, God the Creator, is present in each human being.
Therefore, we are to encounter each human being as though we were on Holy Ground, in the presence of the Holy One. As Moses encountered God in that burning bush, we are to encounter God in each person we meet.
As Catholics, when we enter a church, we look for the Tabernacle, and we genuflect as a sign of reverence. Before the Tabernacle we are on Holy Ground, in the presence of the Holy One in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Imagine if we Catholics genuflected before each person we met. If like Moses we removed our shoes as a sign of being in the presence of the Holy One. It is not practical for us to genuflect before each person we meet as we do to the Tabernacle. But, imagine if in our heart we genuflected to reflect reverence in the presence of the Holy One. How would we treat one another?
God is like a gardener who gives us another chance, chance upon chance. Jesus reveals God as the God of mercy upon mercy. The use of force and violence does not reflect the way of God.
Like Moses removed his sandals on the Holy Ground in the presence of the Holy One in the bur-ing bush. Catholics genuflect on the Holy Ground in the real presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.
Today, we need to genuflect in the presence of each person we meet, for each person is Holy Ground where we can encounter the Holy One. It is not force and violence that is needed, it is an attitude of mercy upon mercy.
2nd Sunday of Lent – Year C
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: March 17, 2019
Patience, patience, patience
Normally I never tell people about what I am doing at Lent – I try to follow what we heard in the readings on Ash Wednesday – “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”
But I thought I would share with you this year my Lenten challenge – not because it is something I am proud of, or want anyone to compare with, but instead to humbly tell you that I struggle as well as you. And also that this might be an area in your life that you might also battle with and are looking for God’s guidance.
So two weeks ago, Pope Francis challenged people this Lent, to give up gossip if that is a struggle for you. Based on that, I thought, well, gossip isn’t my main challenge…my largest challenge is patience. I’ve always been fairly driven and working at a steel plant that has losses of $60,000 for every hour of production lost didn’t help to lessen that tendency!
So, instead of any other Lenten sacrifice, this year I would try and become more patient – with my family, people around me, strangers – wherever and whenever.
I asked God to use these 40 days to teach me about patience and how to be more patient – and it is funny how God works – when it is something God wants us to improve, He seems to respond very quickly!
His first way to teaching me (and us) is through St. Catherine of Siena’s book – A Dialogue with God, which I have been reading in preparation for our parish trip to Siena in May. In the book, there are four major areas of sin identified that block us from God – Self-love, pride, indiscretion and finally impatience.
St. Catherine learned from God and passes on to us, that impatience is a form of selfishness. We are not happy that we don’t get what we want, when we want it, and how we like it. We get agitated, upset, antsy, because our needs are not being fulfilled.
This is truly not God centered and something that needs to be worked on.
The second way God is helping me and us is in today’s readings. It’s funny that this was my weekend to preach and in the readings we have many examples of patience that jump out at us and teach us.
In the gospel, we see after the transfiguration of Christ, God speaks from the cloud to Peter, James and John and says “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
In order to listen to Christ, we have to follow Jesus’ example when he goes to the mountain to pray – this means to stop, make time, and make it a priority to be able to hear God speaking to us in prayer and/or scripture; embrace it, and then put it into action in our lives.
In the first reading, we see Abram, asking God when He will give him and his wife children, and God says to be patient – the descendants will be so numerous – “Look to the heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them…so shall your descendants be”. He tells Abram that it is not yet time and the land will be given to his descendants 400 years in the future – a long time to wait – but we hear “and he believed the Lord, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”.
Abram was patient, because of his trust and faith in God!
In the psalm we have sung – psalm 27 – “the Lord is my light and my salvation” – the psalm is from a speaker in distress, but their heart we can see has trust in God as their light.
God promises in the psalm that He will not hide his face from his servant, he will be there in the time of need – but watch carefully – the last verse of the psalm – “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord”
In other words, God may not act immediately; his timing takes into account many other factors – we are to be patient and wait for Him to act in the His time and not ours!
In the second reading we have St. Paul reminding the Philippians and us of course, that the challenge to live the Christian life is not always easy and “to stand firm in the Lord” – to stand firm in following Christ’s example and not to be buffered by the winds and waves of the storms of life that can pull us away from God’s love and security.
To stand firm patiently, waiting as God acts in our lives. It makes sense as we know what of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is patience, if we allow the Holy Spirit to drive our actions instead of our own emotions.
Mother Teresa – “Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”
The goal of the Christian life as we know is to run the race to become Christ like and fully mature as Christians. We are called to know Christ, to imitate him, to follow his example with humility and love for others. We are called to live as God’s hands and feet in the world – including how we interact with others such as being patient – “the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
We are called to imitate Him and be a reflection of His love in the world. It is during this time of Lent that we take this time out in order to make this journey.
So if patience is a challenge for you as it is for me – what are things we can think about this Lent and going forward in order to improve in this area of our Catholic Christian lives:
Here are 3 examples:
- If the line is very slow at the checkout, and we are getting antsy, maybe we can see it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with some one else in the line who may need an ear; or maybe we can smile at the person who may be struggling to go fast and let them know we understand and it is okay, maybe they have digital challenges or just need a little more time
- If we are struck in traffic, knowing we might be late; perhaps we can recognize this as an opportunity to relax or pray; and also remind ourselves that maybe this delay will prevent us from getting in an accident; or maybe give us the time we need to think about how to approach a person or situation at work?
- If someone is taking forever to get to the point in a conversation, and we are feeling impatience rise up – maybe retell ourselves that there could be key details in what they say that may help us; or maybe this is one of the only conversations they will have this day and our listening will show God’s love for them
So this week, as the world rushes along and we are caught up in it – recognize the impatient moments as they happen and just say to yourself (as God whispering in your ear) – patience, patience, patience.
Second Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 17, 2019
The great test of our Catholic Faith is not that we can perform miracles or healings. The great test is that we have a sense of wonder and awe, that we are able to see grace in the most ordinary places. Are we able to recognize grace in ordinary places, people, moments?
We just heard the story of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John on that mountain with Jesus see his glory, recognize the deeper meaning of Jesus, see the inner reality of Jesus as Son of the Father. Important in this story is to remember that Jesus was fully human like us. He looked like us, someone meeting or seeing him would see a human being like any other. Jesus was a completely ordinary human being. There would be nothing extraordinary just looking at him.
But, in the Transfiguration experience, Peter and James and John see something more, they
recognize the glory of Jesus, saw the divine reality present in their midst. In this ordinary human being, they were able to see with wonder the grace present in Jesus.
The four Gospels that we have are not primarily historical accounts. They are faith accounts and anything expressed in the Gospels is meant to become real in our lives as well. If the Gospels are not lived in our lives then they simply become dead letters.
So, the important question is not, “did the Transfiguration happen?” nor the question “what happened there?” The more important question for us is, “where and how do I experience the Transfiguration today in my life?”
Where do we see grace in the ordinary, where do we see beyond the ordinary to a deeper mean-ing? Are we able to see with eyes of wonder, to see the grace in the ordinary things, places and people in our life?
Marriage. One of the difficulties for some newly married couples is that they have false expectations. So, they are unable to see the grace and goodness in their very ordinary spouse and very ordinary marriage. Sometimes people struggle because their marriage is too ordinary, their spouse is too ordinary. The challenge is to be able to see with the eyes of wonder, to recognize grace in that very ordinary spouse, grace in your very ordinary marriage.
Same challenge exists for many new priests. They come out all excited, but most people they serve are very ordinary and the parish they serve is very ordinary. The challenge for a priest is to see with the eyes of wonder, to see the grace in the ordinary people they serve, see the grace in the ordinary parish they are in.
Another place we need to see with the eyes of wonder is when we look to the poor, the home-less, the sick. At first sight we might only see that they are rough, dirty, smelly. Are we able to see the grace below that surface? To recognize even the presence of Christ in the poor and needy?
Seeing with eyes of wonder, the grace in the ordinary is our Catholic Sacramental vision. This Catholic Sacramental Vision is experienced in the Sacraments. In very ordinary things we see something greater.
In the Eucharist, very ordinary bread and wine becomes the presence of Christ. In ordinary bread we see deeper to the grace of real presence. What we experience in the Sacraments lead us out to see God’s grace in the ordinary of creation, the ordinary of the people in our lives.
This is the test of our Catholic faith, to see with the eyes of wonder. To see the grace in the ordinary events, the ordinary people, the ordinary things, the ordinary places in our life. When we are able to see this grace in the ordinary, then the Transfiguration becomes something we experience today.
First Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 10, 2019
Do you dare to go out into the desert?
The Hebrew people wandered through the desert for 40 years before coming to the promised land. Jesus went out into the desert to face temptations for 40 days before beginning his ministry.
In the early church around the third century, numbers of Christians chose to go and live in the desert. They were leaving the corruption of their society to live the Gospel in a more authentic way. They were called the Desert Fathers.
It seems that the desert was often a place people went to see more clearly, to purify their spirituality, to live in union with God. In the desert they were able to be freer from distractions, to focus on their inner life, to see what really mattered. There they were able to grow in holiness and wisdom.
But, the desert was not an escape. In the desert they faced real temptations, they had to face their inner demons. They saw the truth about themselves and had to overcome the dark sides of their humanity.
Jesus faced these temptations. The temptation to compromise by striving for power, or fame, or wealth, or a comfortable safe life. By overcoming this he was able to embrace a life and ministry rooted in truth and love.
So, what about us today? How do we enter the desert today?
Sometimes we are brought into deserts in our life against our will. Suffering and grieving is like a desert that many of us face at times in our life. It might be caused by the death of a loved one, by a divorce, by some sudden illness.
These moments in life can lead us into an inner desert where we are faced with seeing ourselves and life in a new way. Suffering and grieving are like a desert that we enter. If we face the temptations there and remain in God then this suffering and grieving can actually lead us to greater wisdom and holiness.
Sometimes we are brought into deserts in our life through some dark night of the soul. When our faith is challenged, when I do not feel the presence of God.
Sometimes this happens when we have been hurt by someone or when faced with scandals where we are let down by important figures like our parents, or our bishops or priests. When faced with these difficult challenges to our faith it can be like a desert where we face temptations to give up or to give in to bitterness. But, these dark nights of the soul can also force us to go deeper in our faith, to go beyond a superficial or simplistic faith.
Though life leads us into deserts at times, we can also choose to enter a desert.
Lent is a time in which we are called to go out deliberately into the desert. What are these deserts we can enter during Lent? Silence, prayer, fasting from something (food, tv, social media, …), giving away money or possessions for the good of others.
All of these are ways to create a desert in our life, where we will face our inner demons, will face temptations, will see things more clearly as they truly are. When we embrace these Lenten practices, it is like entering the desert to lead us to greater union with God and to greater wisdom and holiness.
Do you dare to enter into the desert? It might be deserts that come to us in life, such as grieving, or dark nights of the soul, when our faith is tested. During Lent we choose deserts to enter, by entering silence, prayer, fasting, almsgiving. When we dare to enter these deserts, with the temptations and challenges that they force us to face, they become a path to wisdom, humility, to greater union with God.