Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 19, 2020
How many lumens do you shine?
When we go to look for a light at Home Depot, the box tells us how many lumens of energy the light emits – a typical light around 1000-2000 lumens and one that is brighter over 5000 lumens.
“Lumens” is a fancy name for candlepower as they are calculated by a candle giving off one square foot of light from one foot away.
So how many lumens, is how many candles of light are emitted from your spiritual light source.
Our spiritual light source is the power of the Holy Spirit we received at our baptisms and throughout our lives.
At our baptisms we receive our baptismal candle which is lit from the Easter candle and we are told “this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly” and to “keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts”!
The image of light is so powerful in our faith:
- The first thing God created was light – let there be Light!
- Isaiah tells us in the first reading today that God will make him and us a “light to the nations”
- In the book of James, we hear “light has come into the world”
- Jesus is the “light of the world”
- And in Romans, “let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”
This theme of light and showing our light to the world is the key to today’s readings.
In the first reading we hear Isaiah speaking in a spirit of thanksgiving. He is thanking God for all he has done through him.
God says – “you are my servant…through whom I show my glory”. This is key as it shows that God shines through us – the power and strength of the Holy Spirit that we have been given in grace is what we are to show to the world. These are to be our lumens that shine forth!
Isaiah was told that he was “formed as a servant from the womb”, just as each one of us is formed with unique gifts and talents that only our own candles will have.
In the psalm we have sung – “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.” This phrasing is important because it shows us that when we shine our lives out for those to see – it only works if we are doing His will and not our own!
We shine forth to show God’s love and mercy and forgiveness to all those around us, not for the spotlight to be shining on ourselves.
The psalm also teaches us that we are to have “ears open to obedience” and “God’s law in our hearts”.
Always we are called to have God’s message as the focus and source of our candlelight!
In the second reading which is the first 3 lines of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we hear two key messages: Paul is “called to be an apostle by the will of God” and we are “called to be holy”
Both of these are important as we see that even the most famous preacher of the gospel, St. Paul, doesn’t focus on himself – he was called by the will of God.
The beautiful message today is that we are called by the same will of God and we are empowered to be holy by the same gift of the Holy Spirit that Paul was.
Paul may have been knocked down by the light of Christ on the road to Damascus, but we receive the exact same light of Christ at our own baptisms! There is only one Holy Spirit who through the centuries has carried God’s message to each and every one of us.
When Paul says, “Grace and peace to you”, it echoes what we hear at the beginning of each mass – “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”
The grace and the peace are the same as 2000 years ago, with the same source in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And then we hear in the gospel today this beautiful story of John the Baptist and Christ at the Jordan just after Christ’s baptism.
John points his own disciples towards Christ and says, “Behold the Lamb of God”. His supporters would have known the Old Testament reference he was making to the “gentle lamb led to the slaughter” that was prophesized by Jeremiah and Isaiah.
They would have known that he was telling them this is the Messiah who would redeem the Jewish nation by his sacrifice and would be a conquering lamb like king David.
John knows his role, he is not the Messiah, he says “this is the reason I came – that he might be made known”.
John knows his calling is based on his unique gifts and this should cause us to pause and think of the gifts that God has given to us individually. What is the talent that I have that is to shine forth so that people can see my connection to Christ?
The question we have is how much light is shining out from our Spirit, and if we have grown dim or dull over time, how do we now increase our lumens?
There are 2 ways to do this:
- We have to make sure we are connected to the power – the light bulb doesn’t work if it isn’t connected! This means that we have to make sure our prayer life is strong and that we receive the “medicine” of the Eucharist to give us strength.
- We have to make sure that our lights are not covered in dust and dirt, etc. It is amazing isn’t it that dust accumulates so slowly over time, but if you look after a while you can wipe off the layer of white with your finger. Sin is the same, it creeps slowly into our lives unannounced, but we have power through reconciliation to wipe the bulb clean!
So then what kind of light are we shining forth? If the source is the Holy Spirit, then the candle power that shines forth are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
We shine forth kindness, gentleness, peace, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, patience, joy and of course love.
The more we see these fruits in action in our lives, the more we know our light is shining brightly.
We hear in the bible “No one lights a lamp to put it under the tub – they put it on a lampstand where it shines for everyone in the house.” You are that lamp, shining brightly for all to see!
So, this week ask yourself this one question when you pray “How many lumens am I?”
The Baptism Of The Lord
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 12, 2020
You do not need to earn God’s love. You already are a beloved child of God.
A theologian once said that a baby first knows that they are loved by God when they see their parent looking down smiling at them with love.
I saw some recent studies conducted by psychologists on the effect of early deprivation on children. They studied babies from an orphanage in another country. In this orphanage the babies were neglected. They were left in cribs all day other than when being fed or cleaned. All day they were left alone with no one to rock them or hug them or play with them. Basically they were left on their own, neglected. The study showed a whole list of problems that resulted with these babies as they grew up. The neglect had a life long impact.
After being baptized by John, Jesus rises from the water, the Spirit of God descends upon him, then a voice is heard from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved,” This is a crucial moment to everything about Jesus.
What was in the heart of Jesus? The heart of a beloved son. The beloved Son of the Father. His whole life was rooted and motivated in this experience of being the Beloved Son of the Father. Jesus was not motivated by greed, not motivated by power, not motivated by success, not motivated by fame, not motivated by fear. Jesus was motivated by the heart of the beloved.
Any religion or spirituality is healthy if it is rooted in this sense of being beloved. In Baptism we share this with Jesus. You are the beloved child of God. Our prayer life, our life of the Sacraments, it should form in us a new heart. The heart of Jesus. The heart of a beloved child of God. Then we will live differently, others should see us as children of God.
How many people in our world need to hear that voice of God in their heart. How many around us need to be shown through our care that they are beloved.
When babies are neglected it has many negative and harmful effects. When our spirits are neglected as adults, it also leads to many negative and harmful effects. We see the results in our world, with wars, violence, divisions, greed and so on.
We need to allow our hearts to be formed into the heart of Jesus, the heart of a beloved child of God. You do not need to earn God’s love.
You need to listen for that voice spoken within your heart by God.
You are my beloved child.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 5, 2020
Why did you come to Mass today? Each of you may have your own reasons for coming here.
What are some possible reasons?
- You wanted to hear a good homily.
- You like to hear good liturgical hymns and music.
- Somebody else insisted that you come today, perhaps a parent or spouse.
- Maybe you have read some recent studies that show the health benefits of spirituality.
- Maybe you like to meet up with some fellow parishioners.
- Maybe you are following the church’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
- Perhaps you wanted to pray with your family.
All of these might be good reasons to come to the Eucharist. But, the fundamental reason we come to a church to celebrate the Eucharist is the same reason that the Wise Men, the Magi, went out on their journey. We come here to search for Jesus.
Like the Wise Men, when we find Jesus, we meet the Living God, we see a model for our human lives. We are to be seekers as the Wise men were seekers. In searching for Jesus we are searching for God, we are searching for truth.
All of us are to search for truth, to search for God. In our lives we are to seek to find Jesus. Where do we go to find Jesus?
In The Bible, especially the Gospels. Spend time reading the Gospels, search to know Jesus.
In The poor and needy. Go visit someone in need, there you will find Jesus hidden in the poor.
In The Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here in this Eucharist we encounter Jesus as the Word of God and the Bread of Life. “The way we pray is the way we believe.” In this Eucharist we can find Jesus and come to know him.
In Science. As Catholics we believe that wherever there is something true, we can embrace it. In science as we come to understand the universe we also come to know more deeply the mystery of God.
In other believers. Our Catholic Faith says that whatever is true, whatever is good in other religions can also be embraced by us.
Finally, within our own family and friends.
Story of a man who took great pride in that he would search for truth wherever in the world. He would travel all around the world to meet wise figures, to discover new truths. One day, his wife took him aside and pointed out to him that in all this searching for truth all around the world he was neglecting his family. It seems he did not want to hear that truth.
Like the wise men, we are to be seekers, searching to find and know Jesus. As we seek for truth wherever it is found, we find Jesus and so we come to know God. But, in seeking for Jesus, we need to make sure we do not miss Jesus right near to us, within our family, our friends, our ordinary parish.
Feast Of The Holy Family 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 29, 2019
The Holy Family versus our families.
For many of us when we look at our families perhaps we think of them as more dysfunctional rather than holy! It is therefore sometimes hard to see the Holy Family as an image for us and our families. It seems to be some model outside of our reality.
Well, look at this Holy Family. Joseph, Mary, Jesus. It all began with what would have been a great scandal. Mary is pregnant before they were together. In fact, Joseph’s first plan was to quietly dismiss Mary. Mary was frightened, probably very confused by this situation. All of their plans for their life together were turned upside down.
They also faced the reality of being an oppressed people by the overpowering Roman Empire. At the time of the birth of Jesus, they were away from home, had no place to stay.
Then their early years were spent as refugees in a foreign land. We see so many refugees in our world today, forced to flee their home and country due to various dangers. Joseph, Mary and Jesus we see in today’s Gospel, were also refugees who had to flee their homeland for their safety.
Joseph and Mary also faced the challenges of being parents, we know from the story when Jesus was about 12 and gets left behind in the Temple. Any of you parents who have been worried about your children for any reason will know the worry that they felt.
The end of this family came with the crucifixion of Jesus, punished as a criminal. His whole mission and project seemingly ending in failure.
This Holy Family faced as many or more challenges than our own families. Everything did not go smoothly for them. From appearances it was unlikely that anyone would have seen them as particularly holy or special. Just a regular family with the same struggles that most families face in this world.
So, what made them Holy? Jesus, the Son of God, was in the midst of this family. The presence of God dwelled in the heart of this family. Our families can also be holy when we allow Jesus to dwell in the midst of our family, when we allow the presence of God to be in the heart of our family. We do that by praying together, by celebrating the Sacraments together, by praying for each other. We do that by forgiving one another and caring for each other when in need.
Many today might say that is not possible, no one else in my family believes in God, few in my family pray or are trying to live as a disciple of Jesus. But, if there is just one member of a family who is praying, one member of a family celebrating the Sacraments, one member of a family praying for the others. Then God continues to dwell within that family.
You may be the one person who keeps the presence of God alive within your family. Your quiet prayer, your prayer for the others in your family, this keeps alive the presence of Jesus and so your family can be called holy.
Our somewhat dysfunctional families can be connected to the Holy Family when we keep Jesus in our families, when we keep the presence of God in our families, even if it is just one member who is doing that.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 25, 2019
What is God doing? What is God trying to say to us?
We speak of Jesus as the Word of God. In Jesus, God wants to speak to humanity. God wanted to reveal something to us.
What do you think God wanted to say to us in Jesus? What do you think God was trying to say to us?
This is an incredible mystery and gift. That the Creator of the Universe, the infinite Spirit, who is God, wants to speak to us human beings. Jesus is God’s Word spoken to us.
Some things we know about that Word. First, it was Good News. In this time of bad news and fake news, what a gift to have God speak to us Good News. God spoke this word not in a display of overwhelming power, but in weakness, poverty, simplicity. A helpless baby.
God was revealing the dignity of each human being. Including the poor, the weak, the outsiders, the sinners, those rejected by so-called good society.
Secondly, this Word is a Word of Mercy. God did not come to condemn us but to save us and set us free. So many of us struggle with guilt. We feel we are not worthy for God. But, in Jesus, God says something so different.
Recently I had someone come to speak to me in the church. He had been away from church for a while and felt that he had not lived a good religious life. He said to me that he was worried about coming to the church because lightning might strike him.
But, the mystery of Christmas is God coming among us, to the outsiders, the so called sinners. In fact, the powerful, the Pharisees, the Priests, the so called religious elites of the time did not recognize or embrace this Jesus. It was the poor and the ignored Shepherds who received this Word.
If you consider yourself to be an outsider, not normal, different, a sinner, then that is good, for God in Jesus is speaking directly to you. My hope at this birth of Jesus is not based on my being a priest, rather it is based precisely on my being a sinner, a human being who struggles. For the Word of God, the Word spoken to us in Jesus is precisely for us who are sinners, the outsiders.
In Jesus, our God was building a bridge to come over to visit us and speak to us. In Jesus, our God speaks a word to our hearts.
This Word of God is Good News. It is a Word of mercy. In the coming of Jesus, God builds a bridge to reach all of us. Including those considered outsiders, unimportant, different. This Word is spoken to each one of you.
4th Sunday Of Advent
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: December 22, 2019
“Please ensure you listen when your name is called! “
So last Saturday morning, Carmela and I were in the San Juan airport coming back from a cruise vacation (sorry Father Mark – I know deacon’s have too much vacation time!)
So, we arrived at the port around 7am, but we had a later 5pm flight home, so we decided to go to the airport early and thought we would go try to fly on standby at 1pm.
The person at the gate said the flight was pretty full, but we might make it. We were at the far end of the airport with 3 gates loading at the same time and a large crowd was there with people sitting on the floor, children running around and many people eager to get home.
The gate attendant says to us – here are the seat requests, no guarantee, but she looked at me in the eye and said, “please ensure you listen when your name is called!”
She was implying to stay close to the gate, listen to announcements, don’t be distracted with our phones, or downloading a Netflix movie, or reading a book, or shopping for last minute gifts – be ready to hear and act!
This ability to listen when your name is called, to be able to listen to God when he speaks to us, is a theme in the readings today on this 4th Sunday of Advent.
In the readings we have a real contrast between one person who is listening to God and another who is not and just does their own thing, with very different results.
In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear of king Ahaz, who we know from history was one of the bad kings of Israel. Ahaz was very self-reliant and worshiped other gods and not Yahweh of Israel. He was morally and spiritually corrupt.
In today’s reading, we see that the prophet Isaiah is trying to give him advice from God – he tells Ahaz: “ask for a sign!”:
But we see that Ahaz was not open to a sign from God using excuses – I don’t want to put God to the test. In reality, he was already negotiating a deal with the king of Assyria and wanted to do his own thing.
If he got advice from God, he would have to follow God’s path instead of his own. He would have to listen and then act on God’s word; but he wanted to do his own thing and we know from history this led to Israel’s downfall.
Isaiah says to the king that you can follow your own plan, but God will find another way to give a sign to the people – he will send His Son in the future – Emmanuel, which means God is with us; to the earth as a physical presence of of God in the world.
This reading makes us think – Do we follow our own path in life? Are we open to let God give us a sign? Are our ears and hearts ready to listen to God’s message?
In the gospel story, we see a different response to a message from God.
A little background to the story is necessary here as the history to how marriages took place in ancient Israelite times is key to understanding how the story unfolds.
We have to appreciate that in a Jewish marriage there are 3 phases:
First there would be an engagement (that would have been arranged by the parents, many times when the children were very young);
Second there would be the betrothal, were the desire to marry would now made official by the children, which could be stopped if they didn’t want to go ahead; However, if they proceeded then a one year period of formal engagement would have taken place were they would be know as husband and wife during this time.
The marriage could still be broken by husband, but only through divorce (which we hear Jospeh is thinking about when he says he would divorce or dismiss her quietly because of the pregnancy)
And finally, a marriage ceremony would take place after one year to make things official and permanent.
It is during the second phase that the story takes place.
Joseph finds out the situation with Mary and is mulling his options, and then an angel of the Lord comes to him and tells him that “she has conceived by the Holy Spirit” and that this is to be the promised Messiah of Israel – they are to name him Jesus – which means Yahweh is salvation.
Joseph’s reaction to the dream is positive – he woke up and did what the angel commanded him and gave him the name Jesus.
See how different this is from Ahaz in the first reading. Ahaz also had one of the greatest messengers in the history of Israel – the prophet Isaiah and yet did not listen at all.
What is the key difference – it’s not the angel versus Isaiah – instead it is the disposition of the recipient, the listener.
In the reading we are told that Joseph was a “righteous” man.
The word used in Greek is “dikaios” which means, a person who keeps the commands of God, one who is faultless and whose actions conform to the will of God, which is one with a pure heart.
The “righteous” person is the one who is open to hear the message of God and act on it.
Joseph was a righteous man, so he could hear the truth in what the angel said, and he could immediately act on it because he knew in his heart it was God’s word.
So, today’s readings challenge us in a way to take a moment and think if we are more like Ahaz or more like Joseph?
We need to ask ourselves – when we get a message from God, do we truly hear it?
Which begs the question: how do we hear a sign/message and know that it is what God wants?
I would say that 3 things are required:
- First we have to have a heart or conscience that is pure, open, and active and has been shaped through prayer and discernment so that we can always hear the truth and not our own feelings/emotions – the psalm we sung was we are to have clean hands and a pure heart
- Second is we have to have times of silence to be able to hear – God speaks to Joseph in a dream, he spoke to Elijah in a whisper, he spoke to Moses in private; We have to give God an opportunity by times of quiet meditation or prayer in our lives.
- Third we have to have hands and feet that are ready to act and put the message into action. We cannot be hermits who keep the message to ourselves, but we need to be apostles like Paul – called by God to be his hands and feet in the world for a task that is unique to the skills and timing that God has for us!
These 3 things are not always easy, especially in this Christmas season, with the noise, busyness, high expectations, traffic, crowds, “elbows up” at Fortinos to get the last turkey or cranberry jelly!
But I would ask you this, a little homework between now and Christmas Day.
Set aside 10 minutes of silent prayer to see if there is a message for you this Christmas?
It may a person to call, a visit to be made, a prayer to allow forgiveness to happen, a few minutes to allow for grieving of a loved one, an anonymous gift to a person who needs it – something unique to you.
Be open to what God may tell you and “Please ensure you listen when your name is called! “
3rd Sunday Of Advent 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 15, 2019
Someone once said that there is only one relevant spiritual question. What do you think is that one spiritual question? “Why aren’t you dancing for joy at this very moment?”
Are you dancing for joy in your heart at this moment? This Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. Perhaps we might say, “how can I be joyful? I amgrieving right now, or I was just divorced, or I have an illness, or I am unemployed, or any of the many other challenges that we might be facing right now.
But, joy is not a feeling, it is a choice. It is something deep in the heart rooted in a trust in the goodness of God. It is possible to be sad and still have joy deep in our heart, to be grieving and still have joy deep in our heart.
Pope Francis has written two major documents to the church. One is called, The Joy of the Gospel and the other is called, The Joy of Love. The Joy of the Gospel offers a vision for the church in our world today. The Joy of Love offers a vision for marriage and family life in our world today. Both are rooted in the joy that comes when we place our lives into the hands of the Lord with trust.
How do we live as a people of joy, how do we maintain joy deep in our heart during the struggles of life? The Prophet Isaiah, St. James and Jesus each give us some important keys to being people of joy in our readings today.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of rejoicing, joy, gladness. Isaiah says to speak to those who are struggling, “Be strong, do not fear!” How often do we hear those words throughout the Bible, “Do not fear!” When we allow fear to rule us, it becomes an obstacle to joy.
When we are ruled by fear, it leads us away from love and away from God. Fear can lead us to act against what we know to be good and true. When you see racism, prejudice, bigotry, you can know that the root of these attitudes towards others, is fear. This leads us away from joy. So, first step to keeping joy in our heart is to hear those words of Isaiah, “Be strong, do not fear!”
In the second reading, St. James says “Be patient.” Our time is not God’s time. We are pilgrims, this is not our eternal home. We are on a journey to our true home. We need to be patient when faced with dark moments, difficult times, when we are feeling empty and dry.
I remember being in a desert while visiting the Holy Land. When you looked around in that desert there was just sand, rocks, empty fields that seemed to have no life. But, a week later following a rare rain storm, in that same desert, beautifully coloured flowers bloomed and came to life. That desert that seemed so dead before was now so full of life.
In our lives at times, we have moments when we feel empty, life seems so hard, our relationship with God seems to dry up completely. Then we need to listen to St. James, “Be patient.” Deep down is a new life able to bloom. Be patient and wait for the rain that God will bring, then that joy deep in our heart can come forth again.
In the Gospel, Jesus says to some of the disciples of John the Baptist who came to ask him if he was the one who is to come, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” To have joy deep within us, we need to allow Jesus to come and heal us.
Some of us are blind. We see others, we see life in a way that is hard and resentful. We need to see in a new way, to see with the merciful eyes of God.
Some of us are lame. We have been paralyzed by some situation, a failure, a disappointment. We need to find the strength and hope to get up again and live life with new enthusiasm.
Some of us are lepers. We have cut ourselves off from others and isolated ourselves. We need to be cleansed and reach out to others, be connected again to family and community.
Some of us are deaf. We need to be healed in order to listen to others, to hear the anguish and hurt from people in our family, our workplace, our community.
Some of us are dead. We are not living life, but simply going through the motions. We need to be raised up again to embrace life more fully.
Some of us are poor. Life seems only to be bad news for us. We need to have good news brought to us.
The one relevant spiritual question for all of us is, “Why are you not dancing for joy at this very moment.” We the People of God are called to be a People of Joy.
The path to joy is not to be ruled by fear, but to be patient when in the dark moments of life and to be open to the good news that Jesus brings.
Do not fear, be patient, receive good news. Choose that joy that is lying deep within your heart, allow it to bloom and come to life.
2nd Sunday of Advent 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 8, 2019
What are you taking for granted? Is there anything or anyone that you are taking for granted right now? We just saw John the Baptist in the wilderness calling for repentance, to prepare the way, baptizing people in the Jordan River as they were confessing their sins.
As he is there it says that some Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to be baptized. He speaks very hard words to them. He knows that they had no intention of truly repenting or changing. They saw themselves as members of the chosen people of God, and so presumed themselves to be special to God. John says to them, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” John was warning them not to take for granted their relationship with God.
As we go through this Advent Season, it would a good examination of conscience to review what we might be taking for granted at this time.
Some of us might take for granted the very gift of our life. The mystery that we are alive, feeling, thinking, loving. Life itself is an incredible mystery, do we take it for granted? Is there gratitude and wonder in my heart for the gift of life?
For those who are married, do you ever take for granted your spouse? After a while it must be easy to take your husband or wife for granted. When is the last time you have shown some small act of gratitude or appreciation? When is the last time you have prayed for your spouse?
Parents and Grandparents might review if you take for granted your children or grandchildren. They can be challenging at times, but do you in your heart give thanks for the gift of your children or grandchildren? Do you pray for them?
All of us as children, do we take for granted our parents?
Each of us can look over our lives and reflect on who it is that I am taking for granted at this time.
For myself, I reflected on how I might take for granted the Priesthood. I have now been a priest for 29 years. It is easy to take for granted some of the mysteries of this vocation. When I am celebrating the Eucharist, the incredible mystery of presiding at the Mass.
There is a saying that is up in some sacristies where priests are preparing for Mass that says: “O Priest of God, Say this Mass as though it is your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” What if you knew that today would be the last time you were coming to celebrate this Eucharist? How would you focus and be attentive at this Mass?
When I am called to be with a parishioner who is dying, I need to remind myself of the privilege of being with someone at the time of their death, to anoint them and be with them at this important moment.
As a priest it is possible to take for granted my relationship with Jesus just like the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s Gospel. I can imagine John the Baptist saying to me, “do not presume to say to yourself, I am a priest of Jesus Christ.”
For all of us who are Catholics, do we take for granted our faith? Are we like the pharisees in today’s Gospel? Do we need to hear John the Baptist saying to us, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘I am a Christian.’”
If we think, I am baptized, I go to church each Sunday,… Do we take for granted our relationship with Jesus, do we take for granted our faith? Our faith is a gift, we need to nurture and care for our faith.
In the past many would offer a Prayer for Perseverance. To persevere in faith till our death. Our faith should be like a precious jewel. We do not just leave it around carelessly. We care for it, we protect it. We need to watch that we do not take for granted our faith, care for it, protect it, nurture it.
During this season of Advent, we all need to hear John the Baptist calling out to our hearts. Repent, prepare the way of the Lord. We need to watch that we are not taking anything or anyone for granted. That includes not taking for granted our faith, our relationship with the Living God.
34th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: November 24, 2019
“What did you see?”
When I was working at Dofasco, we had injuries to employees, and we had to perform accident investigations.
It was always interesting to me that we would have to interview 3-4 employees with different viewpoints and many times look at videos in order to truly get to the root cause, to get to the truth of what happened.
People would see some of the situation and would “fill in the blanks” with assumptions on the what they thought happened.
Trying to find the real truth and then putting things in place to prevent reoccurrence was a lot of work.
I was reminded of this during the past week by the gospel today with the crucifixion of Christ and the many different views that take place.
Let’s put ourselves at Golgotha and think what is happening and how people see it.
We have the leaders we are told “thumbing their noses” at Jesus and making fun of him saying “save yourself if you are the chosen one”.
We have the soldiers taunting and mocking him telling him to come down “if you are the King of the Jews”.
We have the first criminal harassing him saving “are you not the Christ?” – basically telling him to “prove it to me!”
All of them are making fun of him by calling him the names of the Saviour from the Old Testament – the chosen one, the Christ of God, the King of the Jews, – all of his royal names.
None of these witnesses to Christ on the cross can see the truth – they only see another criminal on a cross, a person who is destined to die that day and in a sense a failure. They cannot see the truth that is right in front of them.
However, we know that one person could see with his heart, one person sees the facts, the reality and the truth of what is really happening – the second thief, the repentant thief – St. Dismas as he has been named historically.
He cries out to everyone there – “Have you no fear of God; this man has done nothing criminal” and he then turns to Christ and says: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He calls Jesus by his name as a close friend, he asks for mercy and love knowing his own guilt and sin.
Jesus replies to him, “today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Jesus says essentially – you are forgiven, your heart is true, and you recognize the truth that God loves you unconditionally.
Not many people during Jesus’ last hours saw the truth, but some did.
Remember the conversation with Pilate?
Are you a king? And Jesus replies “I am, for this I came into the world to testify to the truth.”
Pilate says, “What is truth?”
And Pilate through this recognized who Jesus truly was insisting that the inscription read: “the King of the Jews”
One could have asked Pilate “what did you see” and he probably would have answered “a King”.
What did you see? What do you see?
We ask the same things these days, don’t we?
Reality television is not real, news has become hard to figure out with so many websites telling us things that aren’t true – the facts are blurred!
Algorithms from internet companies force us subliminally into a narrower and narrower view of the world as if feeds us only what we like and nothing that may cause us to pause and think.
Netflix tells me things I might want to watch because of what is on “My List” and is just telling us to watch more and more of the same thing all the time.
So how do we see more clearly? How do we see the truth?
How do we see with the eyes of Christ? What we have to do is to ponder “what and how did he see?” and we can do this from the examples in the Bible.
For instance, people saw Zaccheus the tax collector and his outward greed. However, Jesus saw Zaccheus’ heart – one who wanted conversion and eventually repented and paid back 4X what he stole.
People saw the lepers at the time and shunned them, abused them and sent them far away.
But Jesus saw the lepers as people who wanted to be a part of society, to be touched and to be loved and treated them in this way.
People saw the women caught in adultery and wanted to stone her and treat her as a social outcast and evil. But Jesus saw a woman who wanted a second chance at a new life, to go on with life and “sin no more”.
Christ is our example of how we should be seeing the world each day and it is truly a challenge for myself and all of us.
Pope Francis has renewed this same message telling us to take on the “smell of the sheep” and to “go to the peripheries” to help the poorest of the poor and those most in need.
A great example to me lately has been a nun, Sister Mary Peter, in India who I met six months ago. She helps the poorest of the poor in a small rural town called Rajgangpur.
In India they still have the caste or class system especially in the rural areas. And the lowest caste is called the Dalit, or Untouchables. They are the ones who clean the streets, clean out the sewage system or animal waste from the streets.
They have nothing and their children have the same, with the expectation to fulfill the same role as their parents did.
She has gone to the peripheries and lives beside them, walks their streets, eats with the families and now educates their children with her fellow nuns. Some of the kids have gone on to become nurses, teachers and lawyers and break the cycle of poverty.
It is truly inspirational to watch her at 70 years old and 50 years as a nun to have Christ give her the energy and love to walk with these people in their truth.
So, what can we do? How can we see with the eyes of Christ? I would say three things.
First, we need to follow the psalm today and “go to the house of the Lord” and read verses from the four gospels to see how Christ gave us an example to live.
Second, we need to go to the peripheries as Pope Francis tells us, not moving to India, but to the peripheries here in Hamilton.
It means to volunteer somewhere in our community that puts you close to those most in need – the sick at the hospital, the shut-ins and lonely in our nursing homes or their own homes, the poor at the Good Shepherd or our Ministry in Need or St. Vincent de Paul group.
It is not always easy, but I will tell you it is so rewarding as many times they help us to learn to love and share and care more than anything that we can give them.
And third, in our own families, the “domestic church”, let us learn to judge less and love more. Let us forgive each other of the hurts and wounds of the past, and instead bring the joy of the daily “kingdom of God” to each day that we can spend together.
So, this week, as the challenges of daily life, the stresses, the ups and downs of our lives come at us – let us stop, take a moment, and ask ourselves this one question: “What did we see?”
First Sunday of Advent 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 1, 2019
St. Paul says it is time “for you to wake from sleep.” Jesus says “Keep awake”, to be ready for the coming of the Lord. The season of Advent is all about waking up, paying attention, to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. How do we prepare ourselves, to be ready for the coming of the Lord? Just saying prayers is not good enough.
Jesus refers back to the story of Noah’s Ark. How everyone was going on with life as usualcompletely oblivious to what was about to happen. The day Noah entered the Ark they knew nothing till the flood came and swept all away. They thought that everything they were doing was so important. They did not even notice what was about to happen. Everything they thought so important was wiped away in an instant.
What about us today? What are we spending all of our energy doing? We are so focused on things that will not endure. I wonder, with all the warnings that humanity is receiving about climate change and the dangers for life on this planet. Are we going to just keep living the same way not paying attention to what is happening to our world? Will we be like the people at Noah’s time who knew nothing until the flood came and swept everything away? Do we need to wake up, pay attention, see what really matters before it is too late?
The Prophet Isaiah in our First Reading offers us a vision of God’s plan for our world. In that poetic vision Isaiah says, “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
We will only be ready for the coming of the Lord if we begin to live that vision of God now. Pope Francis in his recent visit to Japan spoke out clearly about the need to do away with nuclear weapons. He also spoke about the hypocrisy of speaking about peace while we continue to make money selling arms for war. To be ready for the coming of the Lord, we need to be people of peace, to work for peace. That begins with our relationships, at home, at work, in our community.
Even our words can become weapons. Words that we use to strike out at people. Including the words we use on social media. Beating swords into ploughshares requires our nations to review our dependence on the sale of arms, it will require us to change the words we use from instruments that harm others, to instruments that bring peace.
Jesus says that at the time of the coming of the Son of Man, “two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.” If we look at those two people, you would not notice anything different on the outside. But, one had a heart ready for the Lord and one had a heart that was not ready.
Is my heart ready to meet the Lord? Well, do you pay attention to the people in your home, in your family? Do you pay attention to the people where you work or study? Are there people around you struggling and you do not even see it? How can we expect to be attentive to the Lord’s coming if we are not even able to pay attention to the person living in my own home or to my neighbour?
Pay attention to the grace of God right now in your life, the grace of God in the people around you, the grace of God in creation. If I am not able to recognize the hidden grace of God around me today, then how can I expect to recognize the Lord in his coming?
It is time for us to wake from sleep, keep awake, prepare for the coming of the Lord. Are we awake to what is happening in our world right now, including what is happening to the planet which is our common home?
Are we embracing the vision of the Prophet Isaiah, turning swords into ploughshares? Are our words instruments of peace and healing? Are we paying attention to the people in our own home, the people I see each day?
When we pay attention to creation, pay attention to the people around us, embrace a peaceful way of being, then we will have a heart that is awake and ready to meet the Lord.