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.
8th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 3, 2019
This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of the season of Lent. An ancient time of preparation for Easter.
For adults who are to be initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil, this Lent is a special time of spiritual preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist as they become Catholic. We have several adults who have been preparing in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in our parish this year. Please keep them in your prayers.
For those of us who have already been baptized, Lent is a time to prepare to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter celebrations. We are all called to conversion during the Lenten season. That conversion is expressed on Ash Wednesday in the words that are pronounced over us when we receive those ashes on our forehead.
There are two options, the minister may say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The call of Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Repent means to turn around, to change. We are all called to some sort of repentance during Lent.
The other optional words are, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” You could say that during this Lenten season, as catechumens prepare for baptism, and as we the baptized prepare to renew our baptismal promises at Easter, we are all in a sense preparing for our death.
We do not like to think about our death, in our society today we often hide from this reality. But, life and death go together, and facing our death helps us to live wisely now.
Sometimes monks would keep a skull on their desk as a constant reminder, to help them live in a wise way, that kept them focused on what really matters.
For us believers, death is not to be seen as a terrible thing. St. Paul declares that in our second reading today when he proclaims, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Being free from fear of death sets us free to live our lives wisely and with courage.
So the season of Lent is a time of conversion to prepare us for Easter and in a sense for our death. To the extent that we are free from sin, to the extent that we are in union with God, to that extent death loses its sting.
What could we do during Lent that will lead us to conversion and prepare us for Easter and our death? Two suggestions come from our Gospel today. Jesus speaks about blind guides. We want to look for a good guide during Lent. Find some good spiritual reading to do during this season. For some of you it might be reading one of the Gospels, others might find a good spiritual writer to read during Lent. Good spiritual reading is like a good guide.
Jesus also speaks about taking the log out of our eyes, before we try to take the speck out of other people’s eyes. This requires serious and honest self-examination. Many of us will want to do a good examination of conscience during Lent, perhaps leading to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins. What are the logs that prevent us from seeing with the eyes of God? What are the logs we need to remove? We need to be very honest with ourselves.
This season of Lent is to prepare us for Easter and for our death. It is to be a time of conversion, to become free from sin, to be united more fully with God.
Two possible acts for you to consider for your Lent. Find a good guide to lead you through some spiritual reading. Remove any logs from your eyes through a good self-examination and confession.
If we live Lent well we will be able to celebrate Easter with great joy and be able to cry out with St. Paul, “O death, where is your sting?”
7th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 24, 2019
If someone offered you a way that could lead to peace and harmony in our world, in your family, in our lives, would you embrace it? Imagine a way to peace in the world, in our families, in our lives.
Well, Jesus offered that to us in the gospel we just heard. Following this way of Jesus would lead to such peace. But, it is a way that turns upside down our way of thinking and acting, it is a way that our world simply thinks is silly. If we lived by this gospel way of Jesus it would make the biggest impact of anything we could do to make our world and families better places.
This is the great test of our faith. Not going to church on Sunday, but living this way of Jesus that we just heard in Luke’s Gospel.
There are many in our world today who claim to be protecting Christianity, while acting in a way that is directly opposite of the Gospel we just heard. It is truly radical, yet the only way to true peace and harmony. What is this way Jesus presents? Let us listen carefully.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you? Love your enemies. give expecting nothing in return. Do not judge. Do not condemn. Forgive. Give. Be Merciful.
Well, are you ready to follow this way? If we are honest, when we look in our world, in our lives, we see that our nations prefer guns and weapons, we prefer vengeance and getting even with others, we are often upset because we feel we did not get what we deserve. So, we continue to follow a path that is destructive, divisive.
Once upon a time there were two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were across the street from each other, and they would spend each day sitting in the doorway, keeping an eye on each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at this rival.
One night, an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “God has sent me to teach you a lesson. He will give you anything you ask for, but I want you to know that, whatever you get, your competitor across the street will get twice as much.”
The angel said, “Would you like to be wealthy? You can be very wealthy, but he will be twice as rich. Do you want to lead a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. You can be famous, have children you will be proud of, whatever you desire. But whatever is granted to you, he will be granted twice as much.”
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and said, “Alright, my request is this: strike me blind in one eye.”
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. But, we say that is not possible, we prefer our vengeance, our getting even. We do not want the non-violent way of Jesus.
God’s mercy revealed by Jesus is a scandal to our world.
God’s mercy is beyond our imagination.
But, it is the key to peace, and you and I living mercy in our lives is the key to the possibility of peace and harmony in our world, in our families, in our lives.
Jesus offers us a way to peace in today’s Gospel, will we embrace it?
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 10, 2019
Many years ago before I became a priest when I was at university, a friend who was not Catholic invited me to attend a Christian student mission conference in United States. So, I joined him at this conference that had about 15000 university students from all across North America.
In that group there was only a few Catholics. But, the local Catholic chaplain did offer a workshop for Catholic students who were at the conference. The one thing that I remember was that the chaplain gave us a small bookmark with the prayer from the Prophet Isaiah that we heard in our first reading today. “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
That may have been the first time that I started to think of my life as a vocation in a conscious way, that I was called to serve in some way. When I first felt inside that God might want to work through me in some way. Though I had not thought about the priesthood yet, it was probably one of the steps on the way.
The greatest challenge of the Church today, the greatest challenge for every Catholic parish, is to create a sense of vocation in as many Catholics as possible. That all the baptized will embrace that spirit of the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” That all of us will realize that God wants to work through us.
God wants to work through you in some way. For some it may be in a vocation such as the priesthood or religious life. Some in the Sacrament of Marriage. But, all of us no matter what our state in life are connected to God who is at work in the world. So, we are also connected to the work of God. God actually trusts us and chooses to bring love, peace, mercy, care into the world through us.
When Isaiah was called and when Simon Peter was called by Jesus in the Gospel today, for both of them the first reaction was fear and a sense of not being worthy. There are two things that can prevent us from being instruments of God in the world. First, is fear. Fear often prevents us from doing good, from doing the work of God.
Second, is the sense of being unworthy. We do not feel that God would be interested in us. Well, God says to each of us, be not afraid. God trusts us and wants to work through us. Ask yourself: how may God be calling you, how may God want to work through you, right in your family, or where you work or study, or in our community?
Like the Prophet Isaiah, each of us needs to make our daily prayer, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” To live in this spirit of openness to serve and be an instrument of God. It is amazing what God is able to do through any one of us, when we open our heart to be an instrument of God. Go home today with that prayer in your heart, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
3rd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 27, 2019
The Bible can be used for good and for bad. Certainly, in history when used by people in the wrong way, it has been destructive. It has been used to justify the burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, oppression of native peoples and so on. All justified by the selective use of Scripture quotes.
The problem is not with the Bible, but with those of us who read the Bible and use it in the wrong way. That is why it is not enough just to have a Bible or to memorize passages in the Bible. We need to learn to read the Bible in a way that is thoughtful, intelligent, prayerful. We need to read the Bible so that it changes us and not us changing the Bible.
So, how did Jesus read the Scriptures? Jesus would have read what we refer to as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. He would have been immersed in the Scriptures and known them well.
In the Gospel of Luke that we just heard, we see Jesus come into the synagogue and he gets up to read the Scriptures and he is given the scroll from the Prophet Isaiah. He selects a passage to read. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus selects a passage that speaks of good news, for the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed. For Jesus, the Scriptures were primarily a source of Good News, calling him to bring healing, mercy, freedom to all in need.
Then after reading the passage from Isaiah, Jesus says, “This passage is fulfilled in your hearing today.” For Jesus, the Bible was not just about what God had done in the past. The Scriptures are meant to change us, to inspire me to live in a new way today.
So, how do we use the Scriptures? We need to read the Bible in such a way that it changes me and how I live. When we use the Bible, do we use it to bring life or to condemn, to bring mercy or to judge? Do we use it for people or against people? In our reading and use of the Bible, is it Good News or does it become Bad News?
When our reading of the Bible leads us to hate, to prejudice, to condemn, or to reject science, when our reading of the Bible seems to be Bad News rather than Good News, then we need to examine our reading of the Bible.
It is not the Bible that is the problem, but we who read and misuse it. Always be wary when politicians use the Bible, for often we see them using the Bible for their own purposes, often in a way that is Bad News for certain people.
Fundamentalism is a danger with the Bible because it wants black and white, simple certainty, and so fails to see the complexity and need to use our intelligence. We need to read the Bible as a spiritual writing that requires reflection and study.
Our response we sung today said, “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” Enter into the Scriptures, read the Bible as a spiritual work that is to bring spirit and life. Whenever you hear the Bible being used in a way that seems to be Bad News, be very careful about how it is being used.
The Bible can be used for good or for bad. We need to follow the path of Jesus who read the Scriptures in a way that was Good News. Read and pray with the Bible in such a way that we are open to the Spirit changing us through these words.
Second Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 20, 2019
Do we Catholics pray to Mary? Why do we pray to Mary? Some Christian groups criticize us for this Marian devotion. Well, this story of the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana from John’s Gospel indicates that already in the early Christian community, there was a practice of going to Mary as an intercessor.
In this story when there is no wine left at the wedding feast, it is the mother of Jesus who turns to Jesus and asks him to do something about this. You could say that Mary is interceding with her son on behalf of these people. So, when we pray to Mary to ask her to intercede to Jesus on our behalf, we are doing something that is connected with the practice of the very early New Testament Church.
As a priest, people come to me with many different requests. But, probably the biggest request is people asking me to pray for them. They are asking me to intercede on their behalf. I take this prayer of intercession very seriously. To pray for you the members of this parish is something I do every day. I know that it is also something most of you do on behalf of your children, your grandchildren, your students, your friends.
Prayer of intercession for others is a sign of love and connection. In fact, I know many, including myself, have a card on which they list those they want to pray for each day. You might want to create such an intercession list and keep it in your prayer book or bible.
Of course, Mary as the mother of Jesus is perhaps the greatest intercessor we can turn to when we have a need. To ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son. Mary simply says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” What better advice to guide us in our lives, to do whatever Jesus tells us. A good examination of conscience is to ask myself, what is Jesus telling me to do right now in my life?
When we follow the direction of Jesus then even the most ordinary thing can become special. Like water becoming wine. An ordinary parish can become something life giving. St. Paul in chapter 12 of the letter to the Corinthians offers that great vision of the Christian community, of the church. He speaks of a variety of gifts and services, all rooted in the same Spirit, all for the common good. This is what a Catholic parish is called to be.
In our parish I see that variety of gifts bringing life. Parents caring for their children and families with dedication. Single parents caring for their children often with great challenges. Grandparents supporting their grandchildren, often being the connection for them to the faith. Many young people in our parish who are striving to live the faith, to stay close to Jesus, even when there is little support in our society. What courage that takes.
Also, many seniors who have lived their faith for many years but continue to serve in the parish with great dedication. There are also many shut ins who no longer are able to be here with us on Sunday, but continue to pray for the church. Their prayer of intercession is also important.
I have met many new parishioners recently, we welcome you as you bring your gifts. All of these different gifts and services are important.
This is the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian unity. A time for us to pray for Christian unity among all Christians whom we see as brothers and sisters in Christ. The prayer of intercession is a gift and service that each one of us can offer to the church. If you are wondering what gift you can bring to this parish, I would recommend that you begin by offering a prayer for this parish each day.
We Catholics pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, to intercede for us as we already saw was a practice in the New Testament. It should encourage us to also intercede for others, to pray to Jesus on their behalf.
The Church is a body of many people who all bring theirs gifts and services for the common good. What gifts and services do you bring? One gift that each of us can offer is the prayer of intercession. Pray for the Church, pray for Christian unity, pray for our parish.
Baptism of the Lord – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 13, 2019
There was a woman in the RCIA who was preparing to become Catholic. She was very excited about all that she was learning about Jesus. She turned to the priest one day all excited and asked him, “What do you still want to learn about Jesus?” The priest was surprised and thought a moment, then he answered, “I want to know what was in the heart of Jesus.”
Well, in the account of the baptism of Jesus we see a glimpse of what was in the heart of Jesus. As he rises out from the water after his baptism in the Jordan, it says a voice is heard, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
The Eternal Father in Love sends the Eternal Son to become one of us. Jesus, truly God and truly a human being. He became fully human like us in all things but sin. Jesus knew weakness, sadness, grief, he cried, had pain and joy, shared friendships, knew the love of a mother, experienced suffering and death. Jesus shared our humanity fully.
In the heart of Jesus was an intimate relationship with God the Father, whom he called Abba. A deep union as a beloved Son. This love and union with the Father inspired everything that Jesus thought and did.
In our baptism we are united to Jesus and through Jesus we actually share in Divinity, we share in the life of God, enter into the Trinity to dwell in God.
One of our most simple prayers is the Sign of the Cross. Yet, it is so profound. When we make that Sign of the Cross devoutly we are expressing our unity with Jesus who shared our humanity and we are expressing our being embraced within the heart of God, as a beloved child.
The key to being a good Catholic is not going to Mass on Sunday or saying certain prayers. The key to being a good Catholic is to know in our heart what was in the heart of Jesus at his baptism. “You are my Son the beloved.”
St. John Paul II once defined Christianity this way, “it is an attitude of amazement at the dignity of the human being.” You all have a great dignity in the eyes of God. You are the beloved of God. After we come to know this in our heart, then we need to see our fellow human beings with the eyes of God. All human beings have this dignity, including those different from us, including those in prison, including refugees, including a child with autism, including the senior with dementia and so on.
As the baptized, we are to form our heart so that it becomes the heart of Jesus. The heart of a beloved Son, the heart of a beloved daughter. Then we need to see and treat all our fellow human beings as the beloved children of God.
Have the heart of a beloved child of God, see your fellow human beings as beloved children of God.