23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 8, 2019
Do you hate your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, your life itself? Jesus speaking to potential disciples says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate their father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and ever their life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
What is Jesus saying? When we put Jesus first, put God first, then everyone else and everything else can be loved in a right way. We do not own anything or anyone, not even our own life. Everything and everyone in our life is gift, we do not possess them. When we put God first then we can love everyone else in a way that is rooted in gratitude, in a healthy way.
We are all part of a great story. As human beings we are part of the story of creation. Beginning perhaps 14 billion years ago with what scientists speak of as the Big Bang. The beginning of the universe that is continuing to expand in our own time. About 4 billion years ago life began to form on this planet Earth gradually evolving till we human beings came to exist.
This story of creation is rooted in a passionate act of love, God creating in a mystery of love. We are all created in this mystery and continue to be part of this great story of creation. As Christians and members of the Church, we are also part of the great story of this God coming among us in Jesus.
As Jesus selected disciples and apostles, as he taught and healed, as he came to his death on the Cross and revealed the Resurrection. Two thousand years ago a Church came into existence. It has continued to be the Body of Christ throughout the ages.
Through various empires, kingdoms, governments. Facing persecution and scandal. Bringing holiness through holy people, through Saints. You and I are part of that story. We continue that long and incredible story today. Living as part of this Christian story does not happen in some abstract, private way. It is lived out in the world in a communal way.
We all live it out within community. For most of us it is within a community that we call a Parish. For most of us here today, that parish is St. Catherine of Siena Parish, with two historic parishes of Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Lourdes. Soon we hope to begin the construction of a new building to be the gathering place for this parish.
But, we are not just about putting up a church building. We are to form a living church, a community of faith, the body of Christ in this area. Such a living community of faith requires all of us to work together, to serve together, to pray together. It is expressed each weekend when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.
At this time I want to encourage all of us to review how we serve and build up our parish. One simple basic way that you build up this parish is by your presence to pray here at the Eucharist. But, any community, like any family, requires people to serve in various ways.
This weekend at Corpus Christi and next weekend at Our Lady of Lourdes we will be asking all parishioners to review how you are called to serve this parish. There is a flyer in the bulletin and available at the entrances and it will be on our web site. I encourage each of you to review this flyer in a spirit of prayer during this coming week. Then sign up to serve in some way if possible.
Review the Stewardship Flyer HERE.
22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 1, 2019
I heard the Story of a priest who was visiting a L’Arche community in Europe. We will call him Fr. Frank. (L’Arche are communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live, work, learn, and grow together). One of the founders was a Canadian, Jean Vanier. This priest who visited there was not a well man. He was recovering from a nervous breakdown and, although feeling stronger, had not yet regained full health.
On this particular day, the priest who was scheduled to celebrate Mass with the community did not show up. Fr. Frank offered to help. The people gratefully accepted and together they began to pray the Mass. But within a short time Fr. Frank became very nervous and lost all confidence. He stumbled and mumbled his way to the end of the Mass, feeling devastated and humiliated. How upset he was to have let the community down in this simple task! He wanted to run away and hide from the people who saw him in his weakness and helplessness.
After Mass the people came forward and hugged him. They were smiling and crying at the same time. They were saying to him that this was one of the most beautiful Masses they had ever been to! Fr. Frank could not understand their exuberant joy, as he was feeling the opposite.
Resisting their praise, he said, “How can you possibly describe this Mass as you have?” They replied, “But, Father, you are just like us. Thank you!”
These people, so often rejected by society, had recognized something of themselves in this priest as he celebrated the Eucharist. He truly represented Christ among them.
Who feels welcome in our parish, our church? The elderly, those coming on Darts and with walkers, children even when they are distracting, those struggling with mental illness, with depression, people finding life difficult now for various reasons?
Jesus tells the Pharisee that when he gives a banquet he should “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” This is a symbol of the Kingdom of God, the God who receives all, who welcomes with special care those who seem unable to offer anything in return.
The humility that Jesus speaks about is not about putting myself down, but about raising up others. To be secure enough in myself that I do not need to put others down. Then I can be weak in front of others and others can be weak in front of me. Then we recognize each person as welcomed into the Kingdom of God. If God receives the other, how can we not receive them?
Our parish, our church, should be a community, a home where all feel welcomed, where all of us are able to be weak in front of each other. Where all are then lifted up in the grace and mercy of God.
21st Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 25, 2019
Would Jesus recognize me if I met him? Would Jesus recognize you? If we were knocking at the door of the heart of God, will God recognize us, or will the Lord say to us as in the Gospel, “I do not know where you come from; go away from me.”
Our challenge is to live our lives in such a way that Jesus knows me and recognizes me. By my words, by my actions, by how I treat others, does my way of life reflect the way of Jesus? Will Jesus recognize us as people who belong to him?
A life of prayer and sacraments is one step in this path to be recognized by the living God. But, prayer and sacraments in themselves do not get us into heaven. They are not like some pass so that God receives us when we knock. But, prayer and sacraments are important if they help us to see with the eyes of God. If they help to change our hearts into the heart of Jesus.
When our prayer and the sacraments bring us closer to the living God, when they change our hearts and lead us to see as Jesus sees, then prayer and sacraments will lead us to live in a new way. A way that truly reflects the way of Jesus, a way that will allow the Lord to recognize us when we knock at the heart of God.
One of the people asks Jesus, “will only a few be saved?” I wonder if this person assumed that they would be saved and was sort of hoping that many others would not be saved. Sometimes we who are supposedly Christian, followers of Jesus, take for granted our own salvation and are ready to reject others as not Godly enough or not part of God’s kingdom. Jesus finishes the Gospel today with those words, “some are last who will be first, some are first who will be last.”
Things are not always as they seem. So called winners in this world might end up last in God’s eyes, and so called losers might end up first in God’s eyes. Many of us might be very surprised to see who is ahead of us in the Kingdom of God.
Do not take for granted our faith, our relationship with God. Am I living as someone who belongs in the home of God? Am I living in such a way that the Lord will recognize me as one who belongs?
We need to engage in deep prayer and spend time with the Lord in the Sacraments. Then let this prayer and sacraments change our hearts into the heart of Jesus, change our vision to see with the eyes of God. To live our lives in such a way that the Lord will recognize us when we knock at the door of God’s heart.
14th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: July 7, 2019
What is your image of God? When you think of God, what image comes to mind? Whether we realize it or not, we are influenced by various images of God. These images are found in our language, in our prayers, in our ways of praying. A healthy spirituality requires that we reflect on the images that we hold on to for God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear that any image or concept of God that we have is always far more different from the reality of God than it is similar to the reality of God. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God. God is mystery, beyond anything that we see and know in created reality.
But we do need images to lead us toward that mystery of God. In Jesus, we have the presence of God in human form. So, we can refer to Jesus as the face of God. As we come to know Jesus we are coming to know God.
In our Trinitarian Christian vision of God, we turn to God as Father. When we use this image of Father for God, we are not saying that God is male, for God is neither male nor female. God is beyond this human construct. God as Father is focused on the relationship in that inner life of God.
Today, in our First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we were given another image of God. God as a mother comforting her child. Isaiah has God speaking to us, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” When we turn to God we are able to imagine God as a loving mother comforting us in a difficult time.
It is no wonder that Isaiah that finishes by calling the People of God to “Rejoice and be glad.” With such a God we should rejoice and be glad.
This image of God as a mother comforting her child is helpful as we celebrate the Sacraments. In the Sacraments such as this Eucharist, we are being held by God as a loving mother. In our prayer, when we sit quietly and alone with God, we can imagine ourselves being held in the arms of a loving mother.
In Luke’s Gospel we see Jesus sending his disciples out on a mission. We too are sent out on a mission to proclaim the Good News, to help all people to know Jesus, to come to know the God that Jesus reveals. We are sent out to joyfully proclaim the God revealed in Jesus. It is important for us to reflect on the images of God that we have, since we will be sharing that image of God with others.
Today, through the Prophet Isaiah we are offered the image of God as a loving mother comforting her child. Hear this God speaking to your heart as you go out from here today.
13th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: June 30, 2019
What are temptations that are especially dangerous for religious people, in particular for Christians?
In today’s Gospel, we see two temptations that we need to avoid, two temptations that religious people can fall into. The first temptation is that of making excuses. We who are Christians, followers of Jesus, easily make excuses to justify our compromises. We make excuses for not following the way of the Gospel faithfully, for accepting what seems to be an easier way.
As they are on the way to Jerusalem, several persons are called to follow Jesus or ask to follow Jesus. They each respond with, “Yes, but….” Jesus does not accept their excuses, does not accept mediocrity or compromises from those he calls to follow him. He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I think of people who will make excuses for not coming to Mass, “I don’t have time, or I am too busy, or I have important things to take care of.” I can imagine the response of Jesus to such excuses.
But, more important are the excuses we make when our faith calls us to act to oppose injustice, to fight against some evil. Or when following the Gospel faithfully, doing what is right and true, will cost us in some way. Then we are often ready to make excuses, to justify our compromises.
Jesus is clear that there are no good excuses for accepting compromise with the truth, with justice, with goodness.
The second temptation for religious people we see in today’s Gospel, is the temptation to a religion that is harsh, condemning, excluding. As Jesus is going toward Jerusalem with his disciples, the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus.
The response of his disciples James and John was to condemn and exclude them, they ask Jesus, “… do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” We see one of the worst temptations of religious people, one of the worst temptations of Christians to condemn, reject, exclude. But, Jesus rebukes them, this is not the way of Jesus.
A true Christian way that reflects the way of Jesus is about inclusion not exclusion, about embracing not rejecting, about bringing into the Kingdom of God and not keeping out.
So, we who are striving to follow Jesus today, those of us called to be Christians today, we need to examine ourselves for two temptations. First, the temptation to make excuses, to compromise, to accept mediocrity in living our Faith. Second, the temptation to a religion that condemns, rejects, excludes.
We are to embrace a Faith that is uncompromising in following the truth, goodness, the way of the Gospel and a Faith that is about inclusion, embracing, opening doors to the Kingdom of God.
Feast Of The Holy Trinity
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: June 16, 2019
Do you believe in God? A More valuable question is, who is the God that you believe in?
When we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, there is a vision of God that is seen. This vision tells us something about God, but also tells us something very important about ourselves. For we were created in the image and likeness of God. So, our vision of God is also a vision for how we are to live as human beings.
God is a Trinity. God is one, yet a communion of persons, unity in diversity. We human beings are also very diverse. Different races, different cultures, different ages, different languages, different in many many ways. Yet, to be like God we are called to live in unity with our fellow human beings, to see ourselves as one human family.
This says something about our politics, about how we see refugees, how we see people of other countries, people who are different from us. Despite our differences, there is something deeper that unites us.
God is a Trinity. God is not another being but embraces all. God is not a distant separate being, God is near to us, among us, embraces everything. You cannot be away from God. You might feel far from God, but that does not change that you could not even breath for a moment without the presence of God.
This is the God who came among us in Jesus, suffered, loved, cried, and died. This is a God who understands intimately the suffering, the struggles, the hungers we human beings have. This is why you can always turn to God with complete honesty, cry with God, be angry with God, laugh with God.
God is a Trinity. God is a communion of persons, exists in relationship. Relationship, connection is the very reality of our universe. We as human beings are to see ourselves in relationship to everyone and everything.
It is for this reason that we necessarily must care about creation. All of creation is connected to us, from the smallest life form to the largest life form. From the smallest plant to the life in the deepest ocean. We are all connected to nature so must also care for it.
God is a Trinity. Lives as a community. So, we human beings are being most like God when we live in community, when we form family. The family is an image of God the Trinity. The Church is also called to be an image of God the Trinity.
This offers a big challenge to each of us to try to live in peace and harmony within our families, offers a big challenge to each of us to try to live within the church in peace and harmony like a family. We are to support one another.
So, who is the God you believe in? Each time we make that sign of the cross, we are expressing our vision of God. The God who is a communion of persons, unity in diversity. The God who is a communion of love. The God who exists in relationship. The God who lives in community.
This calls us human beings to be like this God. Live in unity within one human family including with those who are different from us. Live in faith, turning to this God trusting that this God is so close to you including in your suffering or struggles or joys. Live in connection and relationship with all creation, caring for our environment. Live with others in your family, in the church, always striving to be in peace and harmony.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This simple prayer, expresses so much about God and calls so much from us.
4th Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 12, 2019
Are you a good listener? I should probably ask your spouse, or your friends, or your children that question. Listening well is difficult, it is a skill that needs to be developed. It is not just about hearing the words, it is about hearing deeply into the heart, into the meaning.
Good listening is a key to marriage, a key to any community, and it is a key to a good spiritual life. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Being a good Catholic requires being a good listener. Are you listening to the voice of the shepherd, are you listening to the voice of Jesus?
Years ago when I was Vocation Director in the Diocese, I had to assist people discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life. They struggled to know if this was really a call from the Lord. But, the difficulty is that this call usually does not come in some dramatic fashion or in a loud voice. Sometimes people are looking for some sign. But, the voice of the Lord comes in a much more subtle way, often only recognized in complete silence.
How do we listen for the voice of Jesus in our lives?
Listen to the people in our life: Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, the poor, refugees. Are we listening to the cry of need in the people within our family? Are we listening to the cry of need in people within our community? Jesus speaks to us at times through the needs of others. Often we who call ourselves Christians are not listening to the voice of Jesus when it is not convenient, when it comes through the disabled, the child with autism, refugees, or one person quietly in anguish within our own home.
Listen to creation: Jesus is the face of God, the source of all creation. Therefore, we also able to hear the voice of the Lord in creation. Latest report indicates that up to 1 million plants and animals could go extinct in the near future. We know the effects of climate change that we face. Are we listening to the cry of our earth. The voice of the Lord is heard in creation as well.
Listen to the Scriptures: Each Sunday we listen to the Word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures. Many also take time at home to read the Gospels. When we are listening to the Scriptures we need to let Jesus speak to our heart.
In Silence: To listen to someone, we need to stop talking for a moment. We need to shut off distractions, including our phones. Inner silence where we stop for a moment is the key to good listening. Silence is necessary in our life to hear the voice of the shepherd.
Listening is an important skill, it is a great gift we can offer to another person, it is the key to community and family. Good listening is also necessary to be a Christian. As Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the people in need within our life? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to us in the cry of creation? Are we listening to the voice of the shepherd speaking to our hearts in the Scriptures? Are we ever silent enough to hear the quiet voice of the shepherd calling within us?
Third Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 5, 2109
What is the key question for each Catholic to answer? It is not “what do you know” nor is it memorizing the Catechism. The key question for each one of us is, Do you love me? Our Catholic Faith is rooted in a relationship with the living God. Do you love Jesus?
So, how do we show love? Not always by words, most importantly it is our actions that reveal love. By caring for the one we love. Think of a parent hugging a struggling child. A grandparent watching for a grandchild. A friend quietly sitting and listening to a friend without judging. Much love is shown by actions, by caring for the one we love.
It is for this reason, that after Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me”, he follows that by the call to action, “Feed my sheep.” This is how we show our love for Jesus. Peter was asked, “Do you love me.” Then he was told, “Feed my sheep.”
In the Church, the Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, so the Pope has this call to love Jesus and to feed his sheep by his pastoral care of the Church. Bishops as successors of the Apostles are also called to love Jesus and feed his sheep by caring for the people in his Diocese. Priests and Deacons are called to love Jesus and feed his sheep in the parish or community where they serve.
Every baptized Catholic, each one of you, is called to love Jesus and to show that love by feeding his sheep. Some of you do it by caring for your children, or your grandchildren, or your students, or your friends, or the poor, those in need, lonely in our community.
The key question for each one of us as Catholics is “Do you love me?” We are to come to know and love Jesus. How do we come to know and love Jesus? We need to spend time reading the Gospels. When we are reading the Gospels, we are spending time with Jesus and coming to know him.
In the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we are spending time and being embraced by Jesus. In order to love Jesus we need to come to know him and spend time with him. Reading the Gospels and being with him in the Eucharist are ways for us to do this.
Then we need to show that love by caring for Jesus in the poor, the lonely, in our families, in our parish, in our community. When we care for someone in need within our world, we are following the call of Jesus, “feed my sheep.”
So, the key question for each Catholic is, “Do you love me?” In your heart, meet Jesus asking you that question directly to you, “Do you love me?” Then we will also hear that call of Jesus, “Feed my sheep.” For it is not words, but actions that reveal our answer to that question. When we care for someone in need, then we are feeding his sheep.
Go home this week and spend time reflecting on that question with Jesus, “Do you love me?” By your life how are you answering that question?
Second Sunday of Easter – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: April 28, 2019
Like Thomas, we come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe. The first appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thomas is not there with the others and so misses Jesus and does not believe. The following week, Thomas is there with the others and so he touches Jesus and he believes. He makes that great profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.”
We come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe. But, our faith calls us to act.
When the Risen Lord Jesus appears to the Apostles, he says to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We come to Mass to touch Jesus and have faith. But, then we are sent out by Jesus into the world.
What are we sent to do?
During Easter we listen to the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the experiences of the first believers after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, we heard that people were laying the sick in the street hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall on them. The Christian community, the early Church, was an instrument of healing. It made the mercy and healing of Jesus visible and concrete.
Jesus sends us out to be instruments of healing, instruments of peace, to bring God’s mercy into our world.
This past Easter Sunday morning, we saw a terrible act of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Several suicide bombings, some in Catholic Churches, killing hundreds and injuring more. The images remind us of the division, the hatred, the brokenness within the world.
Even within our families we find divisions, jealousies, even hatred. It is clear that our world, our communities, our families, are in need of healing, in need of peace, in need of mercy.
This Second Sunday of Easter is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a reminder of the Mercy of God. Reminder of our need for God’s mercy. Reminder of the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is essential, it is the power of God, forgiveness is necessary for there to be peace in our world, between religions, in the church, within families, in our own hearts.
Like Thomas, we come to this Mass each week to touch the Risen Lord Jesus and have our faith affirmed. Jesus then sends us out to be instruments of peace, instruments of healing, to bring God’s mercy into our world and into our families. Our world, our families, each of us, need healing, peace, mercy.
Each of us is called to be an instrument of peace, an instrument of God’s mercy. Even one act of forgiveness makes the world a better place. Have the courage to reject hatred, violence, division when our world offers you that path. Have the courage instead to embrace the mercy and forgiveness of God. Have the courage to be people and instruments of peace.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 21, 2019
Only love can bring true change for good. In our world, in our church, in our families, in any person. Only love can bring true change for good.
God did not use force, or violence, or power to bring about change. In fact, in Jesus we see God letting go of all force, all power, dying on a cross in a way of non-violence. In the
Resurrection we see the victory of love. It is not seen in the news, not recognized by most people, yet in the Resurrection we see that love changes and transforms history and our future.
God does not change us or change the world by force or violence or power. But, through love brings about the change that we celebrate at Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene is a key person and first to witness to the Resurrection. As first to experience the Resurrection and to witness to it, she is often referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus.
So, at his death, she is grieving, sad, lost, she is seen weeping. Yet, it was this love of Jesus that eventually allowed her to see beyond the suffering, beyond the loss, beyond the darkness. She meets the Risen Lord Jesus and sees the work of God’s love in the midst of the great darkness of that moment.
You and I as disciples of Jesus are called to change ourselves, to change the world. We are to challenge and upset the world. But, not by force, not by violence, not by power. We Christians must reject violence and force as a way to change others or to change the world. Like our God, we must only strive to bring change in others or in the world by the way of love.
Many grandparents, parents, spouses come to me sad about a grandchild or child or spouse who is no longer practicing their faith. They wish they could do something to change this person that they love. But, I have to remind them that we cannot bring someone to faith by force, by criticism, by power. I encourage them to pray for that person, pray for them with a heart full of love. Then love that person with a great love. For only love is able to bring change and lead people into the heart of God.
Mary Magdalene had such a great love for Jesus, you and I are called to the same deep love of Jesus. Then like Mary we will be able to see everyone and see all with the eyes of God. Then we will not become lost in evil, in darkness, in injustice, in suffering, in death. Like Mary we will see beyond all of these to the love and goodness of God.
The key to living joyfully in this world, even when faced with darkness and difficulties, is to fall in love with Jesus, with your whole heart. Then you will see in a new way. The key to assisting others to find God in their life is to love them with all your heart.
The death and Resurrection of Jesus shows us the way of God, that force, violence, power cannot bring about change for good, only love can bring about true change for good.