Homilies

Homilies

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Cooperating With God The Little Way

18th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Deacon Robin Mendonca

Preached: August 2, 2020

Introduction

A seminarian friend of mine was telling me about some advice his pastor gave him as he journeyed to the priesthood, the pastor said, “Don’t wait until you have enough food to feed people. Don’t wait for enough money, skills or talents to care for and share with them. Just empty your pocket first and do the best you can out of your love; and, God will provide the rest.” He was sharing his own experience of this gospel of seeing Jesus prepare a meal for over 5000 people from practically nothing. It’s obvious that what is taking place is a logical impossibility. There is no way that this can be anything other than a miracle and in fact it’s probably Jesus’ most famous miracle.

Jesus responds to the little the Apostles had 

But to get inside of what’s happening let’s take a deeper look at the miracle and the characters in the gospel narrative and how they each respond in their own capacity to a need they see before them. We have Jesus and we have the disciples. (Some accounts of this story also say that we have a boy who provides the 5 loaves of bread and two fishes.) But, regardless, the gospel does not tell us that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, put them in big piles and had the disciples distribute them. But rather what we see are the disciples giving the very little and insignificant contribution they had and Jesus multiplying it. This is when the miracle happens: when the disciples share the “little” they had.

St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way” 

This reminds me of the “little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. The “little way” seeks to answer the question: What is the demand of love in the present moment? Or How can I love more right now? See I think, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to determine how to make an impact on the world or in our lives. But we forget that big impacts come about from many little daily choices.

In the little way of St. Therese, we can find that often the opportunity for us to love more comes about in the little things of regular life. A small yes here and there or an offer to help, stopping to have a small conversation when we could easily without anyone knowing the difference, returning a phone call, sharing a smile or a welcome or even taking a minute to pray for someone and ask them how they’re doing and there’s countless more. And yes, these seem little, but the littleness of our actions is precisely how we build God’s kingdom. It doesn’t matter if we are young or not so young, women or men, of different backgrounds and nationalities,  we must do our best and trust that the Lord will do the rest.

The little way is how we can love God and each other more in the present. And God takes our little and shapes, molds and performs miracles in the bigger picture and the grand scheme of things. [1]

Jesus didn’t have to use the bread and fishes

See, Jesus did not have to use the bread and fishes to feed the people. He could’ve just worked a miracle out of nothing and created more than enough for everyone to eat. He didn’t need any assistance, but he chose to invite the disciples to share in his compassion. He chose to take the generosity of the disciples, the little that they had to offer and bring it to completion by working a miracle that only God could work. This is the little way.

How do we cooperate with God

And that’s really the lesson for us: That when we cooperate with God in the little things, when we share our talents and gifts and make an effort to do the little things well, to reach out to others, to serve others and to give of ourselves, to speak the truth in the small ways. God uses that. It doesn’t mean that the little way is always the easiest way. The apostles had to give the little they had. But God used their generosity.

The same is true for us and a helpful way is to ask ourselves often, “What is the path of love for me? How can I love more in this moment? Right now?” We can ask that question at the beginning of the day, throughout the day and at the end of the day. With time, we will truly see that God accomplishes a lot though us and uses us to further his kingdom here on earth! May God Bless you.

[1] Robert Barron, How to Discern God’s Will for Your Life (Skokie: Word on Fire Ministries, 2016), 3.

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Hidden In The Weeds Of Life

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16th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: July 19, 2020

What do you take for granted?  Who do you take for granted?  Perhaps some of you take your spouse for granted, or others perhaps take your children for granted, or others perhaps take your parents for granted, or others perhaps take your church for granted, or others perhaps take your faith for granted, or others perhaps take the beauty of creation for granted.  Is there anything or anyone that you take for granted at times?

Prayer is not about saying the right words, it is about leading us into the presence of God.  Then we become completely attentive to everything and everyone around us.  We see with the eyes of God.  We know that our spiritual life is fruitful when we no longer take anything or anyone for granted.  It is about becoming attentive to the Kingdom of God in our midst.

Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God makes it clear that the Kingdom of God is in our midst, very near to us.  But, it is not usually found in powerful figures, or in military force, or in riches and the wealthy, nor in the famous.  So, it often goes unnoticed, hidden to most of us.  It is often hidden among the weeds of life, hard to see like the smallest mustard seed, or not seen at all like the yeast within baking bread.

Sometimes the Kingdom of God is hidden in our midst, hidden even in the weeds of our life.

During the Covid Pandemic Lockdown I think that there were a number of things that we realized we take for granted in our lives.  Even just the possibility of coming to church for the Mass.  You can perhaps think of some things you realized you took for granted before.

But, I want to mention just one thing that I came to realize so clearly that we can take for granted.

During this time, people could not be visited in hospitals or nursing homes.  That included us as priests.  That meant that many people had to die without the Sacraments and others had to die alone.  To die alone or to not be able to be with a loved one as they were dying.  That is something we just took for granted before.

Sometimes people ask me if it is difficult to be with people as they are dying.  Something I have had to do many many times through the years as a priest.  But, rather than seeing this as difficult, I see it as a privilege.  To be with someone who is dying, to bring them comfort as they take that step into eternal life.  To be able to pray with them, to hold their hand, to anoint them with the Sacrament of the Sick.

Early on in the lockdown one of our long time parishioners was dying in the hospital.   I could not go in for the anointing.  But, her two sons and elderly husband did get permission to be with her at the end.  So, we arranged a phone call on speaker and I said the prayers for them and then when it was time when I would normally anoint the person, I had her son make the sign of the cross on his mother’s forehead.

We can take for granted something like the Sacraments, being present with someone as they are dying.  But, surely the Kingdom of God was present in that moment as this son made the sign of the cross on his mother’s forehead while the priest prayed over the phone.

I also realize we take for granted the church funeral rituals.  We are blessed as Catholics with ritual ways to pray together at the time of death.  During the lockdown, this was so limited, no church funerals, only a small number able to gather at the graveside.  I realized how much the funeral rituals are a gift and blessing and something we perhaps take for granted.

The Kingdom of God is in our midst, even hidden at times in the weeds of our life.  We need to be  attentive and patient to notice the presence of the Kingdom especially when we are in the midst of the weeds of life.  Are you taking anyone or anything for granted?  Let the Spirit sigh within you, to see with the eyes of God and recognize the Kingdom of God hidden within your life.

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What Type Of Soil Are You?

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15th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: July 12, 2020

“That field needs a lot of work!”

Now Father Mark may think I am referring to the field at 681 Rymal Road East, our new building site, as it is covered in weeds, rocks, lumpy soil and some bushes.

That would be true as we do have work to do when we get our project into the ground, hopefully before the end of the year.  However, that is not what the homily refers to, but instead the fields of our souls and our spiritual journey.

Father Mark was right last week, when he said in his homily, that the most difficult part of preaching, is that when you preach, God shows you all the things you don’t want to see…your own sins and failings.  You realize you have no right to preach to others what to do, when you are so weak yourself, but God calls you to bring forth His message despite that.

In contemplating this week’s readings, I realized for the first time, that my spirituality is not one kind of soil!  Shocking!  Previously, I think I had a little bit too much pride, thinking that I have lots of good soil, so not much work to do.  But this was totally untrue.

The reality is that none of us, me included, are one type of soil.   We are all 4 types of soil, as we all have a mix of hard path, rocks, thorns/weeds and some good soil.  We are all 4 types at some point in our lives, and maybe at some part of each day!

The key is not to label ourselves, but instead to aim to increase the % of good soil each day/week/month – by asking God to show us in a mirror what our mix really is and when different types of earth show up in our lives.

For instance, we could look at our own journey and see that the hard path could be during the teenage years when many fall away from the church.  Or it could be after a family tragedy and we don’t feel God intervened enough or a miracle wasn’t delivered and so are heart hardens.   Or maybe when we have a specific teaching of the church that we don’t want to hear or don’t agree with…all of these are times the seed bounces off.

We can have rocky ground on our journey of faith, when we attend Sunday mass or hear a good homily, but once others critique our Catholic faith or church teachings, we can’t reply as we don’t have the depth of roots we need.  We have the basics, but we don’t read, and pray and ask more questions about our faith, and we don’t have the answers not only for ourselves, but also for others.

We have thorns and weeds with the busyness of life and the distractions and temptations of this world.  When we have more time for Netflix and less time for volunteering or visiting/calling sick friends or those in need.  When we can afford to spend more money on wants/brand names/upgrades and not just on our needs; with the extra resources to help others who are barely getting by.

We have good soil when we are generous, thankful, joyous, patient, forgiving, supportive, humble and loving.  This soil not only builds our own selves up, but also 30, 60 and 100 people more!

We need to ask God in prayer to give us a view of the mix in our field is a great way to start!

So the next step is, how do we improve the mix?

If God shows us a large amount of hardened soil, then we get the rototiller out and turn over the dirt to let God open our hearts to hear His message anew.  Whether it is to start coming back to church, or maybe to get informed on a key teaching that we have been struggling with.

If the Holy Spirit reveals that our soil is not deep with a few rocks poking out, than adding more soil through scriptural or inspirational reading can be a great way to go deeper – add spiritual topsoil and maybe some fertilizer to your journey. (Father Mark and I would be happy to give suggestions for resources if someone wanted that on a specific topic)

If during prayer you find that the thorns and weeds of temptation and distraction are a problem, then a time of weed and thorn removal may be most appropriate.  This can be done by taking more scheduled time in your day and prioritizing it above other things so that this part of your faith can grow.  It could also be a time to find a charity that touches your heart to give a donation to.

And when you see the section of good soil, which will be there, in which the fruits of the Holy Spirit are helping others, then keep fertilizing, watering, and pruning that area of your life so that even more people may be blessed by the gifts you bring.

Ask God to help you on this journey, and like we hear in the first reading, He will bless you with watering and help make the seed spring forth and sprout, so that His purpose and plan will be accomplished.

So, this week, when you wake up, say a short prayer to God to show you your field and ask Him for help because we all know in our hearts,  “That the field needs a lot of work!”

 

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Heart In Heart

14th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: July 5, 2020

Do you know what is the hardest thing about preaching?  It is when I begin looking at the Scripture readings for Sunday and I feel like the Lord is speaking directly to me, confronting me with my sins and failings!  When I realize I need to preach about something that I am struggling to live in my own life.

One Desert Father used to say, “The person who teaches others by actions, not by words, is truly wise.”  The longer that I have lived as a priest, the more I realize that my parishioners and people I meet in this life are usually holier than me.

The little old lady at Mass each morning, with no theological studies, but the heart of a child resting in the arms of a loving parent.  A Christian from another church who does not share the Sacraments we have, but who is deeply united to Jesus.  The non-believer I meet, who does not believe in God but is so humble and has a concern for the poor and needy.  So many other examples I could give.

We come to Faith, come to God, not by deep studies, not by extensive reading, not by my great effort.  We come to God when we have a heart of an infant, turning with trust to the living God.

Jesus says, “Come to me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”  We simply have to have an open heart ready to go to the loving heart of God.

Who do you go to when you are struggling in your life?  If you were in a difficult moment in life, who is the person you would naturally go to?  This is a glimpse of how we are received by God.  The Church is also called to be the arms of Jesus saying, Come to me.  Our parish should be a community in which all people hear, “Come to me.”

Each one of us as disciples of Jesus need to be with others in such a way that they hear those words of Jesus, “Come to me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”  To be people that others feel they can go to with trust.

Jesus reveals the heart of God.  A gentle and humble heart.  A God we can turn to no matter what is happening in our life.  We go to God not through our great effort and intelligence, we go to God with the heart of an infant, to be embraced in the heart of God.

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Let It Disturb Me!

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13th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: June 28, 2020

What can we learn from this pandemic lockdown?  As people of Faith, as disciples of Jesus, we should reflect on everything happening in our world and in our lives with the eyes of Faith.  We should examine what is happening to see what it can teach us.  This pandemic perhaps has something to teach our world, our church, our parish, each one of us.  It is not enough just to go through life without reflecting on its mystery and learning from all that happens.

For our world, perhaps we need to learn about the need to care for our environment.

Perhaps our country needs to learn about how to care for seniors in our nursing homes.

Perhaps we recognize that we are all connected and that we need to care for one another, especially the weakest and poorest among us.

For our church perhaps needs to learn how to support families and Catholics to develop a solid prayer life at home.

Perhaps we need to learn to develop a deeper appreciation and knowledge of the Bible.

Perhaps we need to learn how to reach out more to all members of our parish.

Each one of us needs to examine this time and reflect on what I might need to learn or what I could learn through this experience.

This need to learn and be reflective with everything happening in our lives, also applies to the Bible.   If we read the Bible and only look for comfort, to confirm my own ideas, then it will lose its power.  The Bible should challenge me, should unsettle me, should shake me up, it should change my way of seeing things.

Especially when we read the Gospels, when we look to Jesus, for he taught and acted in a way that turned things upside down.  He disturbed the powerful, the authorities, the rich, the religious.  The problem with us Christians at times is that I think I am holy if I do religious things or if I say prayers.  Do we allow ourselves to be disturbed by Jesus as we read the Gospels?

Today’s Gospel can seem disturbing at first glance.  “Whoever loves his father or mother more than me, whoever loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  “Whoever finds their life will lose it.”  But, should not all of us want to care for our families and loved ones?  Should not all of us want to be successful and prosperous?  Should not all of us want a peaceful and comfortable and secure life?

Yes, but not at all costs.

If having a safe, comfortable, secure life for me and my family means ignoring injustice, ignoring the poor, ignoring those in need.

If having a safe, comfortable, secure life for me and my family means ignoring the reality of racism, ignoring the need to make changes within society, church and my own life.

If having a safe, comfortable, secure life for me and my family means being willing to cheat or oppress others.  Then,  Jesus is clear that there are times when we need to die to a safe, comfortable, secure life.  Sometimes I need to allow my life to be disturbed for the sake of something greater for our world, our community.

Jesus himself was ready to let go of everything, including his life, for the sake of truth, goodness, our salvation.  Many others through history have fought for justice, to assist those excluded from society, often at great cost, much sacrifice, even at the cost of their life.

Take time to reflect on this pandemic and what you can learn from this, how it may call you to change something in your life?

In the same way, when you read the Bible, especially the Gospels, read it in a way that is ready to be challenged, to be disturbed.  Let the radical Gospel message of Jesus shake you up and even lead you to change how you live, to change how you see others.

We are reading the Bible most honestly and most truthfully when it is disturbing our comfort.

 

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Distinguished Life Member

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13th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: June 28, 2020

“I am a distinguished life member!”

Seven years ago, I heard myself say these words when I received this status for an engineering community that I am involved with.

Those who know my background, know that I have a degree in ceramic engineering and a specialty in something called refractories.  Refractories are bricks and concretes that are used at extreme temperatures over 1600 degrees Celsius in the harsh processes of steel plants, cement plants, incinerators, glass factories, etc.

It is a very unique speciality and the community that researches, installs, uses and talks about this is definitely a group of “geeks” from all over the world!  They meet at least every two years around the world to discuss the latest and greatest, and when you get old enough, and enough grey hair, you get considered to be designated as a distinguished life member (DLM).

The DLM status has no money awarded, but instead recognition from your peers and an invitation to join every future meeting of “refractory nerds” at no cost!

Needless to say, I was thrilled with this status and the expectation to share my wisdom and knowledge with the future generations.

Attaining this status or designation came to me as a key message of today’s readings.

St. Paul tells the Romans, as well as us, what it means to be designated the status of “Christian” at the time of their baptism.

Paul says that Christians have died to their old self and the world and have risen with Christ and belong to the new world.  Therefore, they must then behave accordingly and “walk in newness of life!”

Baptism, he says, is the new starting point, both when Christ started his ministry after his own baptism in the Jordan and for us as our starting point on our journey of faith.   We join the Body of Christ, the people of God – our future is different.

We have died to our sinful nature and that Christ’s death and resurrection enable us to conquer the fear of our own death, and therefore live as happy, faithful, joyous Christians both now and eternally, knowing our status as Christian children of God.

This status as Christian, does not mean a life of leisure, of everything going perfect, or of ease and comfort.

We hear from Christ himself when he tells his disciples that they will have to take up their cross and may even have family members not agree with the path they have chosen.

The Christian journey is not easy always he says to us and is a matter of priorities.  If we put Christ and God first in our lives, we may be ridiculed, but this is the cross we take up and walk with on the journey of faith.

We move from self-centred and me-first, to selfless, forgiving, and loving.   We take time to pray, reflect, worship and actively help in our community.  Of course, this will allow for less time and focus on minor worldly matters that aren’t important, like what clothes, or shoes, or cars we buy, but it is the path that we freely choose.

The purpose of our life is to use our gifts to serve others to bring the kingdom of God to the here and now.  If we lose our life of using our gifts to serve ourselves only (self-focus), then we can find our lives in doing God’s work, and in making our societies a better place.

The Christians who champion and/or protest for social justice, fair trade, peace, anti-racism, anti-bullying; the ones who push for reform in education, housing, and the growing wealth gap between rich and poor; these are taking up the cross, the ones who may be ridiculed for their just causes.  These are the people that Jesus says are not afraid to lose their life for the sake of the gospel.

We also see a great example in the first reading today.  We see a wealthy woman take care of Elisha the prophet, who she sees in need of shelter and food.  And when he asks her if she wants anything in return for her kindness, she says no, and that she is happy to live the simple life she has.

The woman could have asked for anything, but in her status as a child of God and faithful woman, she humbly states that she is happy with what she has.

We are called with our status of Children of God to get involved with the needs of the people God puts into our lives, to love our neighbour as ourselves.

We are to find our lives as God’s ambassadors, as God’s hands, when we put our gifts at his disposal.

We are Christians, we are baptized to a faith that helps those most in need, that puts an emphasis on love, on forgiveness, on peace, on joy and tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to be what God wants us to be – Distinguished Life Members!

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Are We Back?

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12th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: June 21, 2020

Are we back?  After three months we are back to gather for Mass at the church.  But, though our church buildings were closed, the church was still open these past three months.

  • The church was open wherever families were praying together at home.
  • The church was still open wherever a Catholic sat quietly at home praying for others.
  • The church was still open whenever one member of our parish called a neighbour or friend to check in on them.
  • The church was still open when one of us made a donation to the local food bank or other group that cares for those in need.
  • The church was still open as members of our parish, including high school students, were calling parishioners on our parish database.
  • The church was still open when any member of our parish praised God for the beauty of creation that we perhaps noticed more than usual.

Yes, church buildings were closed, but it is a mistake to say that the church was closed.

Now our church buildings are open again.  We are returning to our church buildings to gather again for the Sacraments, for the Eucharist.  We come to Mass not to be loved by God, we come to Mass to love like God, to love as Jesus loved.  We come to Mass, not for selfish, self-centred reasons, to receive something from God.

We come to Mass to become more Christ-like.  To build up the body of Christ, the church.  We come here to grow in self-giving love revealed in Jesus.  If we come to Mass but do not grow in love, do not become more selfless, more united to others, then the church will not be more open now than before.

One example.  This weekend we are restricted to 30% capacity in our building.  That means there may be some people who will arrive for Mass and they will be told they cannot remain for Mass because we are full.  The test of our faith will be how people respond to that situation.

Some people who come to Mass today and find out that they cannot remain, will have the best opportunity to be the church, to build up the church.  If they receive that news and are able to smile, to say a prayer for the parish and return home at peace.  They are being church, they are building up the church, they are reflecting the self-giving love of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us “Fear no one,…, Do not fear those who kill the body but do not kill the soul,…, So, do not be afraid,…”  Fear leads us away from the will of God.  Fear is an obstacle to true love.  Fear leads us into prejudice, bigotry, racism that continues to afflict our society.  Fear causes us to see those who are “other” than us, with eyes of hate.  Fear prevents us from seeing others with the eyes of God.

Are we back?  We have come back to our church buildings today.  The real sign that we are back will be if we love as Jesus loved.  If we do not allow fear to darken our vision of others.  Being back in our open church buildings is a challenge to all of us to live and be the church.  We are here not to be loved by God, but that we might love like God.

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It’s Just Not The Same!

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Feast of Corpus Christi

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: June 14, 2020

It’s just not the same!

I remember my father years ago saying this to me.  He was diagnosed with high cholesterol and the doctor told him to cut back on the salami and start eating light cheese instead of regular cheese.  He told me its’ just not the same (and truth be told a bit like rubber!)

Another example is during this past three months, people have gone to the hospital for procedures and there have been no visitors allowed.  Phone calls a few times a day are allowed, but the daily visit, bringing in a favourite food, or magazine or just a more frequent fluffing of the pillow are not allowed – its just not the same!

And of course there is the Zoom or Google Meets or FaceTime video to the children, grandchildren, relatives and/or friends that we have now all learned to log onto – it doesn’t replace the hug, the kiss on the scraped knee, the spray with the garden hose or just a simple high five – it’s just not the same.

And finally, the online mass, the “virtual” Eucharist, the television Sunday church – it doesn’t give the smell of incense, the sound of voices singing together (some good and some not so much, but all with full heart), the sign of peace and of course as we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi today – the touch and taste of the Eucharist – the real presence of Christ transformed as a mystery by the Holy Spirit through the Eucharistic prayer.

Virtual, simulated, artificial, imitation, etc. – all are okay as temporary measures, but real, authentic and true celebration of the mass and the Eucharist is when we are all together as a community of faith!!

This is why I am so excited for next Sunday’s mass, even if at 30% attendance, it is much better than <1%!

Isn’t this what St. Paul is telling the Corinthians in the 2nd reading: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

We are the Body of Christ – the loaf shared together here at mass, and then sent out with the nourishment of Jesus in our bodies to be the Body of Christ in the world each day.

In Corinth, the participation in the Eucharist, the Lords supper, was the defining moment of the action of believers as a community.  This defined them as Christians; the ones who were sharing the cup and the bread.

Paul reinforces this with them by two questions:

‘The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?

The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

Christian unity is grounded in sharing the loaf; the participation in the mass, enables and energizes the participation in spreading God’s love in daily life.

In Paul’s time, sharing the table, dining with a group was the primary social symbol of acceptance, of belonging, and of mutuality.  With the Lord’s Supper as the feast, this was the key component of the Christians, as opposed to others who sacrificed to their own gods and then brought the food to a personal festival.

When we are together at mass, we are to see the Eucharist in this light – as a special time together, where we are partakers with Christ himself present, not a symbol, not virtual, not a simulation, but the real presence of Christ in our midst.

In the gospel we see the people of the time also had a hard time in understanding what Christ was trying to tell them.  What is he saying to eat his flesh and drink his blood?  It was one of the most difficult passages of the gospel – then and now!

The people of the time though would have understood that when a sacrifice was given at the temple; a small part was for burning, another part for the priests, and the rest for the worshippers to eat.  Since it was a ritual sacrifice, it was God who was present and therefore, people left the meal God filled.

It was not meant to be literal – it is a way to be in spiritual union with their Israelite God.

Eat my flesh and drink my blood really means for us to become Christ like – inside and out. He tells us to “Remain in me”, therefore, his word, actions, how he related to others, and his example are the blood and body we are to consume and use as spiritual food for our life.

Blood means life – Jews will not eat anything not drained of blood – but Christ says to drink his blood and attain life – he is our full need and eating of him brings us life to the fullest.

The Jews brought up the manna from heaven from their past and Jesus says that it was temporary, good for one day; but true living bread was himself – if we follow him and eat of his life, then we gain eternal life through his graceful gift.

His saving work of redemption and sacrificing himself is what gives eternal life.

Participating in the Eucharist, thereby, participates in Christ’s life itself.

When we receive the Body of Christ in our hands for the first time in many months, lets us thank God for His presence and remind ourselves that “It’s just not the same!”

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A Mad Lover

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Feast of the Holy Trinity

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: June 7, 2020

We do not understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity, we experience it in wonder and amazement.  Nice explanations, though perhaps helpful, always fall short of capturing this mystery of God who is communion of life and love.

This is reflected in the prayer of St. Catherine of Siena.  As one author says, “Catherine is so struck by the thought of God’s love that she is stunned into prayer.”  (Murray, p. 111)  Listen to the language she uses in describing this mystery in her Dialogue:

“Let our hearts explode wide open, then, as we contemplate a flame and fire of love so great that God has engrafted himself into us and us into himself!  O unimaginable love!”

“O mad lover!  It was not enough for you to take on our humanity, you had to die as well!”

“He gave his life with such blazing love.”

Catherine uses the image of fire to capture this passionate love of God, “blazing love”, “that the fire of his charity may warm your heart and soul”, “you are nothing but a fire of love.”, “the extravagant fire of God’s charity.”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells a story based on thoughts of G.K. Chesterton that leads us into this mystery.

“A man who was entirely careless of spiritual things died and went to hell.  And he was much missed on earth by his old friends.  His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back.  But, though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded.

His priest went also and argued:  ‘He was not really a bad fellow, let him out, please!’  The gates remained stubbornly shut against all their voices.’

Finally his mother came, she did not beg for his release.  Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan, ‘Let me in.’  Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges.  For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the damned.” (Rolheiser.  Forgotten Among the Lilies.  p. 163)

It is not that we understand the Holy Trinity, we have to surrender and fall into this communion and be embraced in passionate love.  God’s love is not efficient nor practical.  When experienced, it changes us and sends us out to live in connection with all creation and with all humanity.  That communion of passionate love which is our God revealed in Jesus, is the mystery of the love we are called to live in our lives.

But, be ready to be set on fire, to be burned, to be led where you would never have imagined.

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Mosaic-Medley-Art-Image-Church-Free-Image-Christen-7228

But I’m Just A Small Piece Of Coloured Stone!

Mosaic-Medley-Art-Image-Church-Free-Image-Christen-7228

Pentecost

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: May 31, 2020

“But I’m just a small piece of coloured stone”!

Picture a small square or rectangle of coloured stone or glass about 10mm or ½” in size talking to another small piece and making this statement.

A small piece with its own colour, lustre, translucency, and texture.

This is what I imagine two or more stones from a beautiful mosaic saying to each other during their daily chat.

“How can I be important?” “I am not noticeable”, or “I am too small to matter.”

And yet, when we observe a mosaic image in a church, we see so much more.

In our trip last year to Italy, we saw amazing mosaics over 1000 years old, still with their shine, still able to evoke our emotions and touch our souls.

In our own parish we have beautiful mosaic stations of the cross at Our Lady of Lourdes site.

These stations from what we can tell are over 70 years old and were hand made in Italy using techniques such as burlap to reinforce the concrete backing.

The craftsmanship and beauty ensured that we would not abandon these pieces of art when we make our move to the new parish site.   They have been restored and enhanced to allow another 70 years of parishioners to have their own hearts and souls impacted.

This image of little individual stones inside a larger picture, is the message that the readings today on this feast of Pentecost convey to us.

Many times, in our lives, I am sure we feel like individual Christians, small, insignificant and having no impact on the live and faith of the church.

But these feelings would be wrong.

Just like the individual stones, we are all individuals, no two the same, and we each make up a key component of the entire mosaic of the church.

St. Paul gives this same message to the Corinthians and to us “brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed”.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

What a powerful message for us!  Each of us as individuals has a unique gift, a special service, a strength for activity in the church.

Each of us gets to sparkle with our own colour,  lustre,  translucency and texture.

Why?

In order to bring forth the power of the Holy Spirit in us for the common good!

Our little stone, or piece of marble is a part of the greater mosaic of God’s love that is the church in the world today.

And just like 4 or 5 stones in a mosaic make an image of an eye or a smile; when we bring our gifts together with others, we can bring talents together for an RCIA program, or a way to feed the poor.

We may think that our stone doesn’t matter, but if you look at a mosaic, if a stone is missing, then the image does not have the same effect!

Each of us is called, each of us is loved, each of us is important to the Body of Christ.

Just as all apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they didn’t end up having the same mission.

St. Peter went to Syria and Rome, St. John to Turkey, Simon and Jude to Armenia and St. Thomas to India.

We are the same!  We bring our gifts and talents of prayer, wisdom, knowledge, faith, joy and love to unique places.  One brings it to Dofasco, another to McMaster, another to Limeridge Mall, another to the hospital,  etc.

And the beauty is that when all of us are seen together as a whole image, the world sees the Christian faith and the love of God being done to make the world a better place and to bring the kingdom of God to the here and now.

The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the same we received at our baptisms and you can picture it as the concrete in the mosaic that binds all the pieces together!

When we proclaim in the psalm – send out your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth, it is we who are sent out.  The psalm does not speak of this as a one-time thing, but a continuous process.

This appearance of the mosaic also helps us understand the Body of Christ and the church itself.

Sometimes we may focus on one part of the image only and miss the whole thing.  If we are focused on a particular challenge of the church like some of the recent abuses, or a rule or law we don’t like; then we can miss the entire picture, like the growth of the faith in southern hemisphere and the power of love that is shown.

If we focus on the current trials and tribulations in North America, we would miss what I saw in India with 500 children singing acapella the morning hymns in a rural church in India; or the Sunday mass at 7am in Zimbabwe with the church bursting and the children seated all over the sanctuary as there was no other space.

This is one thing I love about Pope Francis – he has us focused to the peripheries – he has nominated cardinals from the farthest corners of the world in order to ensure every part of the mosaic is seen, not just the middle.

The mosaic of the faith over 2000 years has had ups and downs, highs and lows, but through it all the gospel, the Good News of Christ continues to grow, and love and peace continue to shine forth.

So, what can we do individually?  In the advice of St. Catherine of Siena – “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!”

This is great guidance for us when we look inwards sometimes and say:

“But I’m just a small piece of coloured stone”

 

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