5th Sunday Of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 29, 2020
Where is God in the midst of this worldwide Pandemic? What can we say about the presence of Jesus in this moment?
After the death of Lazarus, we are told that Jesus goes to visit them and to see his friends, including the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. When Mary sees Jesus, she responds, “Lord, if you had been here , my brother would not have died.” Mary is expressing that universal human cry in the deep sense of the absence of God when we are faced with realities of sickness and death. The seeming silence and absence of God.
As Jesus experiences the suffering and grief of his friends, we are told that he was greatly disturbed and that “Jesus began to weep.” We can say that God is disturbed and even weeps when in the midst of our human grief and fear and suffering.
So, what can we say about the presence of God in the face of this pandemic? When our experience includes the seeming silence and absence of God, that Jesus experienced on the Cross?
This Virus is not from God, it is not a punishment for sin, it is not some trial sent by God to test us. Rather, God is present in our midst, disturbed and even weeping with us. But, it does not end there.
Jesus says to them, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Death is not the end of our story. One of the very sad situations in this moment is the need to be separated from loved ones and from one another. In some locations, people have had to die separated from any loved ones. To be separated from those we love. This is a sort of death. It is connected to that death when we are separated from God. For Jesus, death and life have deeper meanings. Ultimate death without hope is the separation from God in mind and heart. Ultimate life is to be united to God in mind and heart.
This death is not the end, it leads us to fullness of life. God is walking with us in the suffering and struggles of this life. Even in seeming silence and absence. The mission of the Church is to help make the presence of Jesus heard and felt in such a time as this, through us. The voice of Jesus might only be heard by others through our phone call or message.
Our challenge is to find glimpses of life in this difficult situation. Is there anything we are seeing more clearly about our unity as one human family? As we are cut off from our church buildings and sacraments, are we finding ways to be the praying church in our homes? Are we seeing more clearly what really matters in this life?
When many of us are using this time to connect with friends and family, have we come to see that we had lost contact with many due to the usual busyness of our lives? In the silence and solitude that some of us are forced to live now, some of us may be able to enter more deeply into our hearts that are often covered over by our noisy, distracted lives. We all need to listen and watch very closely for the presence and voice of Jesus in the midst of this situation. In this pandemic crisis, we hear Jesus “the resurrection and the life.”
In the end, we are to live and express that we believe in the ultimate victory of life over death, the victory of love.
4th Sunday of Lent
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: March 22, 2020
“Let us replicate God’s Love faster than any virus!”
Right now, we are all in unknown territory…the coronavirus has been spreading for the past few months causing hundreds of thousands of sicknesses and over 8,000 deaths already with no known anti-viral.
Each day we watch the news, we listen to the radio to see what is happening now both around the world, in our country, in our province and city. Things change daily with cancellations of events, shutdowns of stores, restaurants, and now church services. We can’t visit people in nursing homes or hospitals.
We worry as we try to see how this will affect us, our families, friends, and the elderly. Will it be as bad as China, or Italy where we see so much devastation?
This virus seems to show no end as it spreads through quick replication and stays on surfaces and seems to outwit our scientists, doctors and government leaders.
We know that contact between us is the way it spreads and so now we “hunker down”, self isolate, and quarantine, hoping to slow it down and “flatten the curve” as we wait for the anti-infection scientists to develop a solution to protect us all.
It can be a frightful time, as we realize we have little control over the situation and have no idea when it may end. How will it affect our health? How will it affect our jobs and our finances? Can we do anything to gain this control back? And where is God in all this? Did He cause this? Why does he allow this to happen?
The readings this weekend can help us with these questions as these questions have been asked for thousands of years as plagues, and diseases and wars have come upon generation after generation of people.
In the gospel we hear a similar question from Jesus’ disciples when they ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples have this ancient image that God is waiting to punish us somehow when we sin. He uses blindness or leprosy or other diseases to “make us learn a lesson” so to speak.
But Christ corrects their viewpoint by teaching them: “neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me…”
In other words, God is not the God who is sitting waiting to punish us, but instead, he tells us that bad things have always happened over the millennia, but each time they do, God shows a way to shine through the life of his followers.
We are told by St. Paul in the 2nd reading from Ephesians to “live as children of the light, for light produces every goodness…”
In the psalm today, the most famous of all psalms, psalm 23, we have the comfort of God “even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage”.
These words tell us that we are not alone at this time of uncertainty, that He walks with us side by side each day.
So how are we to respond and act in these times as “children of the light” and ones called “to do the works of the one who sent me…”
It may seem strange, but we can look at how the virus is transmitted, and it can tell us how to overcome it!
The virus transmits when people cough or sneeze as they spray droplets 3-6 feet away onto people or surfaces. The droplets survive for 24-48 hours and if touched and then we touch our face or any open spot, it moves quickly into our body and then starts the process of replicating and we show symptoms 5-7 days later.
If a person who is sick (even before they know they are), is in the community, that they can spread it on average to 3 to 4 other people.
So, with no cure right now, the only way to slow down this spread is to ensure that people do not interact with anyone else. This is so powerful, since it is exponential in growth rate, that even if a person only gives it to 1 or 2 peoples instead of 3 to 4, the overall infection rate will drop by 90%!!!
Well how do we use this information as Christians to help the situation and do the works of God who walks with us?
If the virus slows down by stopping replication, how do we speed up God’s love by increasing the fruits of the Holy Spirit so that its impact may be lowered?
Here are ten ways that we can all help that are practical and spiritual:
- We care for “our neighbour” by following the guidelines of the experts for social distancing of more than 6 feet, to work from home and self-isolate as much as possible in order to “flatten the curve”, and to preserve our precious medical resources
- We wash our hands as often as possible with soap and water! This was an ancient Jewish law of purification that we can now enhance and use as a way to ensure that we are blocking transmission and again loving others as God loves us.
- We buy what we need for our families, and no more! God’s resources of food, soap, sanitizer (and even yes toilet paper) are there for all of us and we are blessed in Canada to have so much! So, let us ensure every citizen has the same access by calming any tendency to hoard for ourselves.
- Let us be people of patience, spending the time at home to enjoy the little things in life, including a shared meal or a time to chat, laugh or play a game together.
- Let us build bridges of love by forgiving past transgressions and focusing on strengthening relationships with a phone call, an email, or a social media post.
- If we are able, and following all the rules above, can we help a person who cannot get out by buying groceries for them and dropping them off, especially helping the elderly?
- Can we spend some time getting closer to God through a daily prayer, or reading or time of meditation, and asking Him to show us, with our gifts, what we may do?
- Can we reach out with daily phone calls of encouragement, of positive thoughts and focus on the little pleasures in life to offset the fear and anxiety of the news of the day?
- If we are able, can we be people of generosity helping people who may have been laid off or are self-isolating who are having a tough time paying bills and making ends meet to share what we can to “bridge the gap” until times improve?
- Can we support the people on the “front lines” with our prayers; whether they are medical staff, or those who still provide us groceries, the pharmacists and the first responders who have to deal with people who are more scared and anxious than ever.
If the virus replicates at a rate of 3 or 4, can we replicate God’s love by a factor of 10 in order to swamp the world with love and joy, kindness and goodness, so that the world will know God still walks with us in this toughest of times, through His children here on earth.
Truly, let us all use our energy and “Let us replicate God’s Love faster than any virus!”
3rd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 15, 2020
What is Jesus doing in this encounter with the Samaritan woman? It is something scandalous. In fact, we are told that when the disciples returned and saw him with her, they were astonished. It was inappropriate at that time for several reasons.
First, she is a Samaritan. For the Jews at that time, the Samaritans were seen as heretics and a schismatic group. They were detested even more than pagans. They saw them as having a false religion. What is Jesus doing having a discussion with this Samaritan?
Second, she is a woman. In that society, a man would not be alone with a woman other than his wife.
Third, she is not just any woman, but a woman who was in her 5th relationship and no longer with her husband. She would have been seen as promiscuous and unfaithful. In fact, she is coming to get water on her own. Normally, women would have went together to take water from the well, this shows that the other women did not want anything to do with her.
So, it is scandalous and surprising that Jesus would be there in discussion with her.
In this act, Jesus offers us a model for being with others. We see many miracles of Jesus, healing the blind or paralyzed. But, this may be his greatest miracle. By the end of his discussion with her, she is really changed. She realizes her need for God, her thirst for God. She comes to believe that she too can be loved by God. She is set free from the desperate search for love and acceptance with the variety of men she was with. She has changed and starts a new life.
How does Jesus treat her? He listens to her, he cares about her. He shows mercy and compassion. A kind, listening heart caring for a person has the power to bring about real positive change. In this encounter Jesus offers us a model for any spouse, a model for any priest, a model for a good friend, a model for a good human being.
I had a whole homily prepared, but I am going off script. Coronavirus pandemic. Much being closed and shut down. Many things that we rely on for entertainment. Even things we rely on for our faith. Perhaps even Mass will be taken away from us. This can be an opportunity for us. As we let go of many things we rely on, what will we do with the time we have? How will we use this extra free time? Perhaps for extra time of prayer, extra time of silence, extra time for spiritual reading. Perhaps time to phone friends and family we have not seen for a while.
In this encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, we have so much to learn about how to be with others. Much to learn about how to be with others in a way that brings life.
But, I just want to point out two things we can learn based on two quotes from Saints.
First, St. Vincent de Paul once said, “Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favourable light at all times and under all circumstances.”
The others immediately judged the Samaritan woman as someone to be avoided, someone who was a sinner distant from God. Jesus sees deeper. Sees beyond her present situation to the deep thirst within her heart. Sees her need for true love, that she too is deserving of God’s love.
How do we see others? Do we see them with harsh judgment or with an understanding heart that sees the often hidden thirst within others?
Second, St. Mother Teresa once said, “Many people are talking about the poor, but very few people talk to the poor.” Is it not true that politicians, church leaders, parents, teachers, often are ready to tell people what to do, tell people what is wrong with them. But, it would be so much more helpful if they would actually speak to and listen to the people they are supposed to serve.
Jesus offers all of us a great model. A model of a kind, listening heart. A model of caring for others, including those who are rejected by others in society. Such a presence can bring about real change, can help others to realize their deep thirst for God. It can open a person’s heart.
Second Sunday Of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: March 8, 2020
How often when you pray are you asking for something? Have you ever been upset with God when your
prayers were not answered?
George Bernard Shaw once said, “most people do not pray, they only beg.” We do not pray to get God to do what we want, we do not pray so that everything will work out as I have planned. That is not faith, but some sort of entitlement. The fact is that life happens while we are making our plans. The stock market falls, we lose our job, a project we were working on fails, a relationship is lost, we become sick, a loved one dies. Our world is facing that now with the coronavirus outbreak. All of our plans can be so quickly and easily pushed aside by the events and circumstances of life.
Then we can begin to have problems with God. Why did God do this to me? Why doesn’t God fix this?How is it that God ignores my prayer? How often I have seen someone who after some difficult loss or struggle in life stop praying, stop going to Church.
We need to move beyond an immature notion of prayer as a way to make life turn out the way I want it to be. The true purpose of prayer is to fall into God. To fall into the hands of God with trust and faith. For none of us knows for sure our future, none of us can guarantee what will happen in our lives. True prayer leads us into God so that our heart learns to trust. When our prayers are not answered it is up to us to discover how to live the new, unexpected reality that our life brings us.
Abram in our first reading is called by God, to leave behind his family, his homeland, everything that was familiar to him. He was sent to a new land where he knew no one. God offers a promise, that Abraham would become a great nation and his name would be blessed. But, there was no obvious visible sign that this promise would come about. In fact, late in his life he has no child at all. Today, we recognize that Abraham is seen as the father of faith by the Jewish, Muslim and Christian people all through the world.
In the Gospel story of the Transfiguration, Jesus brings Peter, James, John up a mountain and they experience the Transfiguration. This experience of the glory of God in Jesus would not take away the suffering and death that Jesus would face. It would not take away the failure, the betrayals, the fears that the apostles would face at the crucifixion of Jesus. But, that Transfiguration experience would have been a source of hope, a path to trust for them as they faced thisunexpected and terrible situation.
Our prayer is like being brought up a mountain by Jesus to experience the glory of God. But, prayer does not make everything turn out the way I plan, the way I want. Prayer allows us to continue to trust, continue in faith even when we face the unexpected turns of life. When we face suffering, loss, disappointments. Like Abraham, like the apostles, we embrace these new realities with trust.
Find time and place for prayer in your life. Time and place for silence to dwell in the presence of God. Time and place to come to church to celebrate the Sacraments. These moments are like following Jesus up the mountain. Our experience in those times of prayer will not make everything work out the way you want in life. But, it will help you to face with trust the unexpected, the unplanned events that hit us.
Prayer is not about certainty, prayer is not about planning my life as I want, prayer is not about controlling all that happens in my life. True prayer is about trust, about falling into the heart of God, about accepting all that life brings, including the surprises.
First Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 1, 2020
Evil. We do not need to look far in human history or in our world news to see the reality of evil within our world.
One of my favourite TV shows this year is called Evil. Not sure if any of you have seen it. In the show there is a Catholic seminarian who is working as part of an assessment team for the Catholic Church. They investigate purported supernatural incidents. Working with the seminarian is a skeptical forensic psychologist, she is a lapsed Catholic, and a contractor who is not a believer and is responsible for investigating scientific explanations for these incidents. Together this team assesses cases of reported miracles, demons, possession and so on. It is a simple TV show, but it does creatively reflect on the reality of evil as it enters human lives in different ways.
Our Catholic Faith accepts that evil exists, and we are all capable of evil. So, it is important for us to understand the reality of evil, the roots of evil. We should face it openly, otherwise it finds a way to sneak into our lives and into our institutions. As we have seen so clearly these past years, evil is able to enter the church as well.
On this First Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us a set of readings that all reflect on the reality of evil, provide insights into evil. It gives images of evil as a serpent, as the devil. But, the underlying insights are what really matter in these stories.
First, the story of the Fall from the Book of Genesis. This is such an insightful story revealing much about the psychology of sin and evil. After the creation of the man and woman who are in the garden of Eden, we see sin and evil enter the world. The serpent tempts the woman by convincing her that she is entitled to more. Instead of being grateful for all that she has, the woman is focused on what she does not have, what she is not able to have. Sin and evil so often enters our lives when we stop being grateful, when we are obsessed with what we do not have. Then we begin to be resentful and feel we have the right to do whatever in order to get something.
Next, she brings the man into this and gives some to him. Again, when we fall into evil ways we often try to bring others along with us. We justify our behaviour by having others join us. The result of the evil is that they are full of shame, they have to cover themselves up afraid to be seen. We know our behaviour is falling into sin and evil when we need to hide, to cover it up. Later in the story we will see the woman blaming the serpent and the man blaming the woman. Again, our tendency to blame others instead of taking responsibility for what we do.
This story in Genesis is a very insightful study of the reality of evil and how it enters our human lives.
In the Gospel, we see the story of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert. Instead of the image of the serpent, there is the image of the devil tempting Jesus before he begins his ministry. The Temptation to follow a path different from the path of God. Instead of self-sacrificing love to embrace power. Jesus is tempted to follow a path so often followed by leaders in this world, the way of power, success and domination. But, Jesus is called to a path of love and the gift of his very self. All of us can be tempted to choose power over others rather than service, to want to be successful in the eyes of others rather than do what is right, to win rather than to do what is good and true.
It is important for us to understand the reality of evil. To realize that we are capable of evil, that others are capable of evil, that our institutions are capable of evil, including the church. This keeps us awake and keeps us honest with ourselves.
Evil enters our lives when we stop being grateful for what we have and become focused ongetting what we do not have. Evil enters our lives when we give into lies, rationalizing, blaming others.
Evil always enters our lives through falsehoods, lies, lack of truth. The greatest way to avoid evil is utter honesty. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself and with others. Lies are like opening a door that allows evil to enter our lives and our institutions.
Evil is a reality, understand it and face it honestly. Do not be afraid of evil, for evil has no power except what we give it. Evil has no power at all when faced with truth and honesty.
7th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: February 23, 2020
What about some fresh basil?
Now the people here at the Corpus Christi site of St. Catherine’s know that food is an important part of my life and has been the subject of a few homilies over time.
However, it has been rare for me to discuss Carmela’s cooking ever, as it is so good!
But I would like to discuss her lasagna today (at a risk to my marriage!)
A quick background though, as my experience with Italian food really began when I started dating Carmela. Before that, I actually thought that Chef Boy-R-Dee was good pasta!
When I came into the Caliri family, it was as if a light bulb came on – fresh linguini, freshly made sauce, meatballs and of course lasagna!!
Ever since I have enjoyed 30 years of great meals, but as I have been watching lots of cooking shows the past few years, I thought to myself – maybe improvements could be made to my wife’s cooking? (I know, I know, a potentially bad decision).
So, one day I suggested – “what about some fresh basil?”, when she was making lasagna. She looked at me suspiciously as if I didn’t like the current lasagna and I thought I might have to run, but she truly is amazing and said, “sure lets’ try it”!
We both agreed that the lasagna was one of the best we ever had, and the fresh herbs gave it that little bit more – making it almost perfect!
You may ask, “Deacon Tom, what does this have to do with the readings today”?
Well the readings today focus on what we might think is perfection: Jesus says, “be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” and in the first reading we hear “be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”.
When you first hear this, if you are like me, it is very intimidating! How can I be perfect? Is it even achievable? Isn’t holiness for the saints only – those few amazing people in history – Christ can’t be talking about me, can he?
But let’s look a little closer at what Jesus actually told us.
The word that Christ uses in Hebrew is “Tamim” and in Greek is “telios”. Both of these translate better as to be “whole” or “complete”, in a sense to be exactly what God created us to be.
How do we do this? How do we become whole and complete?
If we take our lessons from cooking, we know that a whole and complete “perfect” dish, is due to 3 things: great fresh ingredients, a good method of preparing and cooking, and finally a group of family or friends to share it with.
In our spiritual life, the same 3 things apply: When we are first using the gifts and talents that God gave us, (the ingredients); secondly in the way he wants us to (with joy, love and patience as our preparation and cooking) and finally for the benefit of our “neighbours”, our community.
When this happens, then we are “whole” and “complete” – we are perfect as God wants us to be!
The readings today point us to this message.
In the first reading, we have the book of Leviticus, verses 1, 2 and 17, 18 – we skip over verse 3-16, which doesn’t mean they are not important, but actually means the church assumes that we have this already as our foundation.
Verse 3-16 are a restatement of the 10 commandments with some examples for the people and how to implement them in their lives.
The goal of the commandments isn’t to chastise us into a way of behaving, but instead to give us an ethical way of living that is best for our sake and for others. Holiness and perfection are the goal of these commandments!
A reminder for all of us is that holiness and perfection are God’s goal for us, in order for us to have a life that shines so brightly; so that others look and take notice and say “why are they so joyful, peaceful, kind” with a way of living that becomes a magnet for others to get closer to God themselves.
People will look as it says in the reading as to how “we love our neighbour as ourselves”, how we roll up our sleeves so to speak, to make the world a better place, to help the poor, push for justice, embrace peace and show patience – and they will see God himself working through us.
In the second reading, we hear the “how” on how we are to accomplish this. We are to be humble and trust in God to help us, we are not on our own trying to make this spiritual meal!
I love how direct St. Paul is with the Corinthians and us when he says: “do not deceive yourselves; if you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise”.
In other words, be humble and realize that self-reliance is not the way to live the Christian life. Reliance on God through prayer and reliance on others who walk the journey of faith with you is the rock you will need as you strive for holiness and perfection!
In the gospel we hear Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount, challenging the people to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
In order to do this, he says, you have to behave differently than what is normally expected.
When Christ says “you have heard it said – an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” the people would have known this well as it was the Code of Hammurabi – the ancient Babylonian code of 282 rules written in 1750BC, and put on a stone pillar that stood for all to see. (It now sits in the Louvre in Paris, France for all to see).
This law was put in place because vengeance at the time was worse – life for an eye, etc., and these laws made it seem more reasonable, balanced and just.
However, Jesus says that retaliation has no place in the Christian life – he sets forth non-retaliation and non-violence as the standard.
Jesus asks us to “turn the other cheek”, to go two miles instead of one and even to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us”. It is a real challenge for us in these times, with a world that is in more contention than ever, we are called to bring peace and prayer – to build bridges instead of walls.
Jesus challenges us to the goal of perfection in the Christian life, not to be perfect all the time, but as St. Paul tells us later in the book of Corinthians “strive for the greater gifts!”
I love this word “strive” as it expresses a desire to struggle and reach and push ourselves, not to live comfortably, but always try with the Holy Spirit as our strength, to love God and love our neighbours a little more each day.
So, the homework for this week is twofold:
First – make a nice meal with your family, something you normally do, but think of maybe one thing you can do to tweak it and make it better.
And as you are cooking this meal, remember this challenge of holiness and perfection and ask yourself: What about some fresh basil?
6th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 16, 2020
Catholic morality is more than just following a set of rules. The commandments of God is more than just arbitrary rules God imposes.
Catholic morality and the commandments of God are like light that allows us to see a good path to follow. A path that leads to goodness, to peace. Our choices, our decisions in life, they matter. They make a difference.
God has given us freedom to make decisions and choices in our life. But, there are consequences to this freedom, to these choices and decisions. As the Book of Sirach, that wisdom literature from the Old Testament says in our first reading, “Before each person are life and death, good and evil…”
The commandments lead us to peace, to life. People do not normally choose evil or choose to sin because they want to suffer or hurt others. But we can be convinced falsely that the evil choice or the sinful path is actually something that will be good for us. That it will bring us happiness or something more in life. We are easily led in this false direction. But, our choices make a real difference to us and to others.
Our choices today as a human race are crucial, truly between life and death. When we look at the weapons we have today, the nuclear weapons that exist, our decisions that lead to conflict, to war, are capable of leading to incredible destruction, even destroying our world. It is for this reason, that it is crucial that we make decisions that lead to peace, to overcome divisions, to change our reliance on military power.
When we look at the reality of climate change, global warming, environmental damage, again it is crucial that we make decisions that face this situation honestly. Refusing to make good decisions in this area is capable of leading to great destruction of this planet we live on, destroying many species and eventually doing great harm to the ecological world we rely on for our life.
So, our decisions and choices as a human race matter greatly.
Our decisions and choices as individuals also have great potential for harm. When I am not faithful to my promises, when I lie, when I cheat, when I am greedy, and so on, this harms me personally but also harms others near me. Broken families, loneliness, poverty, these are caused by human sin, by decisions and choices people make which lead to harm.
If you are being tempted to make a choice or a decision that you know to be sinful, do not allow anyone to convince you that it does not matter. It does matter. It makes a difference. It will create a path which will not lead you to ultimate peace, it will result in harm for others, in your family, in your community.
Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law. But, he is calling us to do more than just follow rules. We are to become people capable of making good decisions, good choices. That we learn to use our freedom in a way that brings life to us and to others. Do not accept mediocrity.
Your decisions and choices matter.
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year A
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: February 9, 2020
“Don’t spare the spices!”
I don’t know about you, but I have a slight addiction to cooking shows and the Food Network.
Shows like MasterChef, Beat Bobby Flay, Guys Grocery Games and of course Chopped are all favourites and they are fun to watch as well as learn a few lessons for our own meals.
One thing I have noticed, is that no matter what the show, no matter what the items they are cooking, the judges will always be upset if you don’t “bring the bold flavours” and the contestants are told “Don’t spare the spices!” especially the salt! (nothing worse than pasta that has been boiled in water without salt).
So, you may ask, Deacon Tom, is this a cooking class today or a homily?
The truth is that the lessons from the kitchen are the lessons that are the focus of today’s readings.
We are told in the gospel: “You are the salt of the earth!”
This focus on salt by Christ 2000 years ago was just as critical as it is today.
Why did Christ use the image of salt? There are a few reasons he probably did this as the people would have known how important salt was in their lives.
Salt is critical to our survival as human beings – we have 250g of salt in our bodies and we need salt for our survival. Sodium is critical to transport nutrients, oxygen and nerve impulse to our muscles.
Salt was and is also critical for preserving food, whether fish or meat for future use.
Salt is so critical it has been a subject and focus of battles and wars over the years including the great Indian salt march by Mahatma Gandhi!
For the Jewish people of the time of Christ, salt was also linked to purity, as the salt was pure since it came from the sun drying out seawater and it was that beautiful white.
And of course, salt adds flavour to our foods, so it was used in Jewish meals.
Salt was essential, so Jesus was telling the people that their faith life, their witness in the world was also essential and critical.
He warned them not to lose their saltiness so that they would be thrown out into the street.
Interestingly, salt cannot lose its saltiness just sitting there, it is a chemical, so the only way to lose their saltiness, was to get diluted – diluted by getting mixed in with dirt or water and becoming a minor component.
This meant not to get caught up in the worries of the world, or becoming worldly focused on money, power or prestige.
Don’t we have our own saying for this: That person is “salt of the earth” – it means they are down to earth; they are focused on simple and important things like the needs of others.
This is what we hear in the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is chastising the people in a way at this point in time. The people have strayed away from God and figured that they would just have a quick fast and that would get them back in God’s good graces.
But God tells them, through the prophet, in the line just before this reading “Is this not the fast that I choose; to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free”.
And in the reading, he tells them you need to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, to satisfy the needs of the afflicted!
God wants us to rise up in action and make the world a better place – this is what pleases him more than one or two days of fasting!
God tells the people that if they act in this manner, God will make them and us like springs of water that never fail, He will give us strength and ensure we are protected.
God wants to support us, but He never forces Himself on us – we have free choice for how we live, but He does promise that if we make our relationship with Him a priority and show his love to others, then he will “turn his face toward us”.
St. Catherine of Siena echoed this same thought in her writings, she said: “I have placed you in the midst of your fellows, that you may love your neighbour with free grace, without expecting any return from them, and what you do to them, I count as done to Me!”
This reminds me of the song we sing “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me”.
We show our love for God, by loving those around us – not sparing the salt or spices but bringing God’s flavour to the world!
In the beautiful documents of Vatican II, we are told “all lay people, through the gifts they have received, are at once the witnesses and the living instruments of the church itself.”
Our lives are the spices, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the turmeric, and the salt of the earth that we are called to spread to the world!
In the psalm we have sung, we hear similar words: “they are gracious, merciful and righteous, they are generous and conduct their affairs with justice, they give freely to the poor” – in other words – they spread their spices widely and often!
We are told that the legacy of being “spicy” people of faith will be remembered forever! It is a legacy that will be passed down to the next generation.
This theme continues in the 2nd reading with St. Paul telling the Corinthians (and us) that the spice we spread is God’s sacrificial love that he showed us on the cross.
The love of one who was willing to give his life for others; not looking for earthly praise.
Paul’s power is not himself but the power of God (the crucified Christ) working through him.
We also don’t serve others and spread the spices, because we are great, but we take what we have been given and spread it to others to make the world a better place – God works through us!
If we are not making the world a better place, then we have become diluted and our salt has lost its sodium and needs to be thrown out. We are called as Pope Francis tells us: not to be lukewarm Christians, but people who are on fire for our faith, spreading daily the message of the gospel through how we live and treat others.
And when people see our good works, they don’t say it was us, but they recognize that God is a priority in our lives and give glory to God for working through us; others see a person who God shines through, not a gifted person.
What I love in the gospel is the phrase: “You are”, not they are, or I am, but you are the salt of the earth!
Not you will become or must work hard to be salt and light – but you already are!
We are salt by Holy Spirit in us! It is our calling to not hoard the salt or keep it to ourselves but instead to scatter it far and wide!
So I would ask one thing for the homework this week:
When you go out each morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say: “Don’t spare the spices!”
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year A
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 9, 2020
One of my past times is to watch Youtube. Usually in the evening, after I am done everything, I relax watching various things. Not sure if it is a good or a bad habit.
Anyways, recently I was watching a short film called The Nest Egg. In the story a man is seen dressed in a chicken costume walking to the centre of the town where he lived. He had bought dozens of crates of eggs. Then he stood in a spot and there was a box where people could buy an egg for one dollar to throw at him.
At first people were not sure what to make of this but eventually it started to attract long lines of people coming to throw an egg at the chicken man. Some hit him in the body, some hit his head and spilled down his face. We do not find out why he was doing this until later in the short film.
The only one that does not take part is one single mother who walks by with her little daughter but says that it is mean to do this. While this is going on we see that the young daughter is making a design out of an egg to be part of an egg design competition in her school. She is making a great effort because her single mother who is very poor is soon to have a birthday. Her daughter wanted to win the prize because it is the only way she could get this gift for her mother.
Unfortunately two other girls, real bullies, take her designed egg and break it. So, she desperately goes to the local store to buy an egg so she can make another one for the competition. She takes the little change she has down to the store, but she does not have enough to buy even one egg. The guy sends her down to the centre of town saying that she could perhaps buy an egg from the chicken man. So, she rushes down to him.
In the mean time we have found out why this man was doing this. It turns out that recently his wife of many years had died of cancer. They had no children and they had worked and saved throughout their life creating a next egg of 3 million dollars. He always expected that he would die first and wanted to be sure to leave enough so that his wife would be able to live comfortably. He explains that his wife was a truly good person, a person of real goodness. He had no kids, no relatives, so he had no one to give this nest egg away to. So, he wanted to find one person who was as kind and loving as his wife.
Instead he saw all these people coming down throwing the eggs at him with no concern for him, seemingly with no goodness in their hearts. He has finished this with the last egg being thrown when the little girl arrives desperately asking for an egg. He tells her they are all finished and says that he remembers her being there the other day but walking away. She explains that her mother told her that it was not kind to throw an egg at this man. Also, that her mother had very little since her father had left them.
Then the little girl explains why she wanted the egg, so that she could win the competition to get her mother something for her birthday. The man looks down at her with eyes that show he has finally found someone to share his nest egg with. Someone who has the kindness that his wife reflected.
Jesus says, “let your light shine before human beings, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The Prophet Isaiah in our first reading tells us how to let our light shine in the darkness. Practical acts of goodness to those in need.
Who in our world has some light through your goodness, through your acts of kindness? Who is waiting to find one person who reflects goodness in the harshness of life? Who has some light through you?
We can summarize both Isaiah and Jesus with one question for each of us: Who is better off because you are on this planet?
Feast of Presentation of the Lord
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 2, 2020
What are your hopes? What is it that you hope for? What kind of world do you hope for? What kind of family do you hope for? What kind of parish do you hope for? Hope is something important because it gives direction to our lives.
Simeon, was in the Temple when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus in Jerusalem.
He is described as a man who was looking forward to the consolation of Israel. He was hoping to
see the Christ of the Lord, the Messiah, before his death. Simeon’s hope was in the plan of God,
the salvation that God would bring.
In Jesus, he recognized the plan of God being fulfilled. It is for this reason that Simeon could make that famous prayer, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace.” Simeon was at peace as he approached the end of his life. For his hope was in the plan of God for salvation. Each of us can hope that as we approach the end of our life that we have lived in such a way that we are able to go in peace.
What is it that we as Christians should have as our hope? First, we hope in Eternal life. The
salvation of our souls. Jesus is the path that leads us to salvation, to eternal life, the eternal
banquet of love and joy in God. What would you trade in place of Eternal life? Is there anything
temporary in this life that we would say, I will take this instead of Eternal life?
But, our hope is not just in some future life as though this life does not matter. For God’s
Kingdom is connected to this life now. What do we hope for in this life? We pray in the Lord’s
Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.” Our hope then in this life is that God’s will be
done. The will of God is for peace, that no one be abandoned, that there be a common good, a
common home, one human family. This will of God should also be our hope.
This hope is important because it gives direction to our lives, to how we live our lives. If my
hope is just for money or power, then we will cheat, exploit, lie to get what we hope for. But, if
my hope is in Eternal Life, then I will sacrifice for what is right, I will struggle for justice, I will
work for the common good, not just my own private good.
If my hope is for the world that God wills, then we will live to create such a world.
If you hope for a world that is kind, then be kind.
If you hope for a world that is gentle, then be gentle.
If you hope for a world that is peaceful, then be peaceful.
If you hope for a world that is honest, then be honest.
Like Simeon, when we come to the end of our life, we want to be at peace. The key is to hope for God’s will to be done, for God’s Kingdom to come.
Hope for Eternal life, the salvation of your soul, then you will be focused on what really matters.
Hope for a world that is a common home, one human family. This hope will give direction to
how we live. Then like Simeon, at the end of our life, we will be able to say, “now I can go in peace.”