Homilies

Homilies

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

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

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

Pentecost

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: May 31, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But these feelings would be wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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great-commission

Who Are You?

great-commission

Feast of the Ascension

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached:  May 24, 2020

Baptism is not something that we receive, it is about who we become and who we are called to be.
Who are we called to be in the light of our baptism?

In baptism, we are reborn by water and the Spirit, therefore we can truly say we are children of God.

In baptism, we are united to Jesus, so we can say that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are the people of God who dwell within the heart of God, who is a communion of love.

In baptism, the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us, so that we are to be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

In baptism, we entered the church, to be the body of Christ.

Look into the waters of your baptism, see who you are. Child of God, brother or sister of Jesus, lover living in the Holy Trinity, witness of Jesus, member of the body of Christ. What dignity, what beauty, the incredible mystery of who you are. See who you are, not with pride, but with humble gratitude.

The Feast of the Ascension is also about the followers of Jesus coming to see and live who they were called to be. Jesus sends the Apostles out saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”

We are disciples of Jesus. We are responsible for continuing the mission of Jesus. To preach the Gos-pel, to bring healing and peace. We are to be instruments of reconciliation, helping each other to be rec-onciled to God and reconciled to one another. Our challenge is to live as disciples of Jesus, sharing in the mission of Jesus.

Someone tells a legend about Jesus’ arrival in heaven. There a vast host of angels greeted him. After the formalities, they asked him whom he had left behind on earth to finish the work he had begun. Jesus replied, “Just a small group of men and women who love me.” “That’s all?” asked the angels, aston-ished. “What if this tiny group should fail?” Jesus replied, “I have no other plans.”

Jesus has no other plans but us. In our baptism, we are called to be disciples of Jesus, to continue the work of Jesus. We are those left to continue the mission of Jesus. We are to preach the Gospel, to bring healing and forgiveness, to be instruments of reconciliation with God and one another. Look deeply into the mystery of Christ, feel yourself within the Holy Trinity, see who you are called to be.

St. Teresa of Avila captures this mystery of who we are in her famous prayer:

Christ has No body on earth but yours; No hands but yours; No feet but yours; Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours the hands with which he is to bless now.

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Holy Spirit

Fully Charged With The Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

6th Sunday of Easter

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: May 17, 2020

“Now where did I put that charger?”

How many times have I said that statement and how many times have I let my batteries run down?

Sometimes it is my iPad, sometimes the Bluetooth device, and of course the #1 culprit is my cell phone!

I don’t mean to let it run down but before you know how it goes, the battery is less than 15% and I’m getting warnings.

It of course happens when I am far from home and I didn’t buy the car charger device, so I’m stuck!  Or the time I lost my charging cord at the hotel in a foreign country.

Either way, I’m low on battery, and I have to find a charger to get my functionality back to normal.

Don’t we feel the same way in the spiritual life sometimes?

We are so busy keeping connected to work, friends, family; we have to take care of our homes and cars, and we run out of battery power!

What is this battery power in the spiritual life and how do we ensure that the power never runs down to the warning signal?

We hear the answer in Christ’s words today

“I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth”

Christ knew he was leaving the disciples and returning to the Father, and he knew that left alone, our battery power would drop quickly, so God sent the Holy Spirit to be our strength, our source of energy in the spiritual life.

Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit is the forgotten part of the Trinity.  God the Father gets a lot of focus of course and Christ as redeemer, but the Holy Spirit is just as much a part of the Trinity and we don’t seem to talk about the Spirit as much.

Which is too bad really as the Spirit continues with us now each day and is active in everything that we do in the faith life.

In Baptism, it is always humbling to me to know that the Holy Spirit works through the deacon, or priest as the water is blessed:

by the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son”

In the Eucharist, the priest says the words: “make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”

In Confirmation, the bishop says: “send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence.  Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.”

And then he anoints the candidate, “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”.

At these major sacraments; at these key points in our lives we see the Holy Spirit front and centre, but the rest of the year, it seems that the Holy Spirit is much more hidden and lower key.

But if this is the part of the Trinity that God has given for battery power, strength and sustenance, should we speak of it more?

I have been doing a little research on ecumenism lately, as Vatican II has asked us to do, and it is interesting that our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, who have had beautiful liturgies and theology for the same 2000 years, have a much higher emphasis on a daily encounter with the Holy Spirit.

In their morning prayers they begin with this:

“O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, you are everywhere and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and giver of life: come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O good one.”

I love this prayer as it invites the Holy Spirit to come and abide with us, cleanse us from sin and save our souls.

It acknowledges that even though God send the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us strength, he is not forced upon us!

The battery is there, but we have to bring the charger and plug it in!

We see this in the first reading, where the deacon Phillip, has the Samaritans listening to the message with great joy, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands that embraces them into the Christian life and will be their strength in the persecutions and challenges to come.

In the second reading, Peter tells the Christians that they will have to give an explanation to others about Christ and the reason for their hope – it reminds us what Christ told us in the gospel of Luke – “do not worry about what you will say…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time”.

Or in the book of Romans: “we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words”.

We are called to plug our charger in to the battery of the Holy Spirit and we are fully charged and ready.

But if we try and rely in ourselves and forget the charger, we quickly run low and our answers will be based only on our own knowledge, which can never give to others the joy, love and caring that we get with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus tells us “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” and we know the two commandments are to love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.

It is hard to keep the commandments if we are self-reliant; but if we are tapped into our battery power daily, through 9 key words “come Holy Spirit, fill the heart of your servant” than we will never have say “Now where did I put that charger?”

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Real Presence

Carlo_Dolci_-_The_Holy_Family_with_God_the_Father_and_the_Holy_Spirit_-_WGA06376

5th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Mark Gatto

Date Preached: May 10, 2020

My mother is 89 years old and living in a senior’s condo.  So, my siblings and I have decided not to visit her in her condo to keep her safe.  My brother and sister arrange for food to be delivered or drop it off.  I call her daily to maintain contact since I am unable to go to Guelph to visit her in person.  But, it is not the fullness of being present with her.  Many of you are experiencing that same limited personal presence with family and friends.

As Catholics, we are unable to gather now for the Eucharist in our churches.  There are TV and livestream Masses to maintain contact.  But, again, this is not the fullness of the presence of Jesus.  The presence of Jesus in the People of God gathered together in assembly and the real presence of Jesus in holy communion.

Jesus says, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”  Jesus hungers to be with us, to be present with us.  Like a person who passionately longs to be with their beloved, Jesus passionately longs to be with us.  Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life”, reveals a God who hungers and longs to embrace us.  A God who desires us to be present within the mystery and life of God.

The First Letter of Peter says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”  This God looks at us as a person looking upon their beloved.  The desire to be together, to be present with one another, this is the longing of our God revealed in Jesus.

Jesus then says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  Have we seen Jesus?  How do we see Jesus?  To really see someone we need to spend time with them, watch them, listen to them, share experiences with them.  We spend time with Jesus in the People of God assembled together in the church as the body of Christ.  We see Jesus in the Priest presiding in the Sacraments.  We listen to Jesus speaking to us as the Scriptures are proclaimed.  We receive Jesus in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

In this time we need to remember that we also need to see Jesus in the poor, the sick, the needy, the lonely.  Mother Teresa used to say that her Sisters began their day in Adoration in the chapel.  There they spent time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Then they went out to serve the poor in the streets.  There they spent time with Jesus in those in need.

At this time when we do not have the presence of Jesus in the Sacraments in our churches, we are still able to spend time with Jesus, to listen to Jesus, to see Jesus.  We are perhaps encouraged in a special way to spend time and listen to Jesus by reading one of the Gospels.  Take a Gospel and slowly read through it, watching for how Jesus acts, how Jesus treats others, what Jesus says and teaches.  As we see this Jesus we are seeing God the Father.  What do you see about God as you see this Jesus?

“so that where I am, there you may be also.”  Jesus longs for us to be present with him.  We see the God who hungers for us, who thirsts for us, who passionately wills that we be embraced in the love of God.

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Salsa classes

Just Keep Turning!

Salsa classes

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: May 3, 2020

The answer is: “Just keep turning!”

About 2 months ago, just before the coronavirus lockdown hit, we had the pleasure of attending our first salsa lesson at an event downtown.

Our daughter Melanie is a ballroom dancer, and with her coach, they ran a “pop-up” dance lesson at a local marketplace with around 30 people attending.

We learned some basic steps and then finally the big spin!  One person asked a question, “what if you want to spin your partner multiple times” and the answer was simple “keep your hand in the air and just keep turning!”

This answer is also applicable to the question that the people had to St. Peter in the first reading today.

It was moments after Pentecost, the apostles had received the Holy Spirit, and St. Peter came outside to make this speech that we heard today.

The people realize their role in the passion and death of Christ and “they were cut to the heart” and asked Peter “What are we to do?”

And Peter could easily have answered with the words “just keep turning”.

The words he uses are “repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek word that Peter uses is “metanoeo” which means a radical turn of life away from sin and a new life oriented toward God.

The word is used 34 times in the New Testament and the word “to turn” is used even more in the Bible.

We recall from the book of Isaiah “Turn to me and be saved”, from John the Baptist “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” and from Christ himself “Repent and believe in the gospel”.

It is good to picture this in your mind as turning not only your head, but your entire body around toward God. (similar to a dance spin!)

I don’t know about you, but I find I need this lesson all the time and probably why the church tells us every Ash Wednesday to “turn away from sin and believe in the gospel”.

When do we need to turn?  For many of us it is when we become self-reliant and can’t control things the way we want them.

  • When our plans, vacations, renovations, etc. are delayed due to a pandemic and things get put off for a few months or longer
  • When children or grandchildren struggle with schoolwork, friend situations, work stress
  • When we have to put our plans on hold due to family emergencies
  • When we can’t get what we want as our finances change unexpectantly

It is especially a challenge in countries like ours, Europe, etc. that are wealthy, as we can be very self-reliant as to at least our basic needs, and small inconveniences seem to bring us great stress.

This is a key lesson we can learn from the people in the poorest countries in the world.  Whether it was the people of India, Uganda, Zimbabwe, or Bolivia; they seem to have a strong and relentless faith life as their lives truly depend on God’s graces and love each day.

They live lives that emulate the psalm we recited today and when you are with them you can almost feel how “even though they walk through the darkest valley, they fear no evil.”

They are always turning towards his face, and his voice, hearing the shepherd’s voice as he calls each of the sheep by their name.  This intimate relationship between the sheep and shepherd is something that they turn toward and strive for as he “guides them on the right path.”

So how do we turn/spin/return to God?  We don’t need grand gestures like walking the pilgrimage of Compestela for 30 days, but instead the little things every day

  • As Pope Francis likes to remind us, reading 2-3 verses of the gospels and reflecting on them
  • Saying the rosary even once a week that gives us 20 minutes of focus on Mary and life of Christ
  • A quiet prayer time of 5-10 minutes where we listen more than talk
  • Or a kind gesture, and act of kindness to another person to show them that God loves them through our actions

They don’t have to be perfectly executed ballroom dance turns, but ones done with enthusiasm, joy and love.

We can learn this lesson on our life’s journey, and it challenges us towards this constant turning back to God, and I believe the reason we celebrate Lent and Easter every year is this constant reminder from the book of Joel to “turn back to me with all your heart” and he will provide rest for our souls.

So, the homework for the week is to think about the how close we are to God – ask the question “what should we do?” and remember God’s answer is: “Just keep turning!”

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Bernhard_Plockhorst_-_Good_Shephard

The Call of the Good Shepherd

Bernhard_Plockhorst_-_Good_Shephard

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Carlos Diaz (Seminarian)

Date Posted: May 1, 2020

‘He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out’

When I read this, it made me think of a common event that happened at home.

I remember growing up my mother would call my siblings and me. This meant dinner was ready and she wanted us to come set the table so we could start dinner.  Sometimes, she would call us by the wrong name.  We came anyway; we knew the drill.

This weekend is the fourth Sunday of Easter and it is commonly referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. This weekend is also commonly referred to as Vocation Sunday.

I want to share with all of you how the Good Shepherd called me to the priesthood.

One summer day in 2012, an aunt and cousin of mine came to visit from Mexico. After a few days, I grew tired of babysitting my younger cousin all the time. My aunt asked if I wanted to go out.  That day I surprisingly said yes although I didn’t actually realize where she had invited me. I just remember I was excited. We went to a local chapel for one hour adoration. That is the day that I heard for the first time the voice of the Shepherd inviting me to be a priest.  The call was not an actual voice saying “be a priest” but rather a strong desire to be a priest and celebrate mass. There I found a deep and profound peace. I knew I was in the presence of God of He who had given me the gift of life.

In the years that followed, as I was completing my degree in Environmental Studies, I took the practice of visiting the local parish before and after classes. It was during these daily visits that I heard the call to the priesthood more clearly and my desire to follow Christ more closely grew in my heart. During these visits, I came to know and recognize Christ’s tender care and voice.  Christ’s voice is a constant call to conversion and improvement to better ourselves and to live a life of love and mercy.  I understood the gift of life given to me by God, was to be shared with others in this particular vocation.

Today many people think of vocation as something that is a one-time event. I was called to be a priest so I am a priest; some of you were called to marriage and so you got married.  These particular vocations along with the single life and consecrated religious are rather a way to live our lives. The call of the Good Shepherd to us is an ongoing daily occurrence inviting us to embrace him.

Everyone should strive to listen to the voice of the Shepherd more closely and to carry a conversation with Christ. There can be lots of noise around us but if we persist in prayer and give time to God and put away distractions for at least 15 minutes every day we will be able to recognize that subtle voice of the Good Shepherd calling our own name.  There are so many things that the Lord wants to tell us. We just need to spend time with him on an ongoing basis. It can be 15 minutes in the morning and/or 15 minutes in the evening. Sometimes listening can be the hardest part because we might want to fill the time with spoken prayers.

Let us approach Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the door through which everyone is called to enter. He always offers abundant life.  In contrast with my own mother, God never calls you by the wrong name. Let us be attentive in prayer and pray with intention so we might hear the Shepherd’s personal message to us.

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Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Pilgrims_of_Emmaus_on_the_Road_(Les_pèlerins_d'Emmaüs_en_chemin)_-_James_Tissot

Our True Home

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Pilgrims_of_Emmaus_on_the_Road_(Les_pèlerins_d'Emmaüs_en_chemin)_-_James_Tissot

Third Sunday of Easter

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: April 26, 2020

What is a true home?  We can live in a house, without it being a home.  We can live with others, without it being a home.  We can enter a church, without it being a home.  A true home is where we experience unconditional love, peace, support, a sense of being where we belong.

During this Covid self-distancing and isolating, perhaps what is most difficult for many is the loss of our home.  Many grandparents are telling me that the most difficult thing for them is that they cannot be with grandchildren and often unable to hug them.  Others are missing being able to go to pray in their church, which is a spiritual home for them.  Phone calls and on-line virtual contacts are helpful.  But, they cannot fully replace the real presence of family and friends and parishioners.  For many of us, it might feel like being in exile.

Our second reading this Sunday from the First Letter of Peter speaks of living “during the time of your exile.”  We are reminded that during this life we are all in exile from our true home.  We have glimpses and signs of that true home, but it is never full, and it is of course, only temporary.  We experience that feeling at the time of the death of a loved one.  Then we are reminded in a hard way that this life is temporary, that our love in this life comes to an end.  These times can remind us that we are pilgrims, on a journey to our true home.  It can help us to live in a wiser way in this life.

After the death of Jesus, the disciples struggled to see a way forward.  They were sad, grieving and lost.  The story of the road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel offers an insight into the experience of the first disciples.  The way in which Jesus opened the Scriptures for them so that their “hearts were burning within.”  The way in which Jesus was recognized by them was in the “breaking of the bread.”  Though they were exiles, as pilgrims on the way, Jesus was walking with them.

Jesus is also walking with us along the way.  Listening to us, opening the Scriptures for our hearts, present with us in the breaking of the bread.  Like those disciples, we need to pray in our hearts, “stay with us.”  Invite Jesus to remain with us.  Just close our eyes and ask Jesus into our hearts.

Yes, we are exiles in this life, we are pilgrims on the way to a true home.  But, we are not alone on this journey, the Risen Lord Jesus walks with us along the way.  Like the first disciples on that road to Emmaus, we need to invite Jesus to “stay with us.”

In the Eucharist we celebrate that sign of the Eternal Banquet.  In this time of self-distancing, this time when many are living alone, when we cannot gather for the “breaking of the bread” in the Eucharist, we need to pay attention to recognize the ways Jesus is walking with us.  We are reminded that we are on the way to our true and eternal home.

In Heaven there will be no self-distancing, no isolation.  There the Living God will take us home with an eternal embrace, an everlasting hug.

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hide-and-seek

Hide And Seek Is Easier Than You Think!

hide-and-seek

2nd Sunday of Easter

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: April 19, 2020

“Hide and seek is easier than you think!”

I think all of us can remember being children and playing hide and seek either with our family or friends.

I remember playing in my neighbourhood with my brothers and sister and the local neighbourhood kids.  We had rules that you had to stay within our one block and no backyards.

If you followed a fairly systematic plan (spoken like a future engineer), hide and seek was easier than you would think as you found all the key hiding spots.

I was thinking of today’s readings and hide and seek popped into my head.

We hear in today’s readings Christ saying to the disciples in the upper room “Peace be with you”.

And when I think of peace, I think many times for myself and maybe for you, it seems so elusive in this world of ours.  How do we find peace with cell phones, 24-hour news, the internet, work lives that expect answers day and night, children to be raised, elderly parents to take care of, etc.

At times it seems so overwhelming and as hard to find as a small child hidden behind an evergreen bush.

We should clarify that when Christ says “peace be with you” it is not a frivolous greeting but a powerful statement that has been used in the Middle East by both Christians, Jewish followers and Arabs for thousands of years.

It means, “May God give you every good thing including prosperity, well-being, health, completeness and safety”.

The disciples would have remembered at that moment what Christ said to them at the last supper: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…do not let your hearts be troubled, do not let them be afraid”

This promise of total peace is what Jesus told them and he tells us.  It is not just a feeling of calmness, but instead a feeling of closeness and security.  Psalm 131 tells us that we are like a baby sleeping in its mother’s arms, and I think that is a beautiful image of what peace truly is.

Christ tells them this just after the resurrection in order to convey the message that St. Paul has in the 2nd reading: a new birth, a living hope, an inheritance of salvation, the promise of eternal life.  This gives us the ability to know that we have a place in heaven reserved for us, with Christ himself as the one who has prepared it.

I remember my own father telling me once close to the end of his life “I don’t know why people are afraid to die…what kind of faith do they really have?”  It is a little tough, like my dad, but his point was that we hear every Easter how Christ destroyed death and opened the gates to heaven for us…we should be grateful and not afraid of how life will play out.

So intellectually, we may understand that we are supposed to have peace with this great promise, but how do we really attain peace in the here and now as the world speeds ahead?

I tried to reflect back on times in my own life when I truly felt peace:

  • At the top of the Andes mountains with my two daughters looking across ice capped mountains
  • When I would nap on the couch with one of the girls also sleeping on my chest
  • At prayer in a quiet chapel at St. Augustine’s seminary
  • On a walk in the Irish woods with my wife with only the birds to hear our footsteps

I thought about what is common in all these experiences that can help myself and all of us find peace more often and I came up with 4 things:

  1. Every time it was quiet without the distraction of noise
  2. Every time God’s presence was there, with him in prayer or with his creation, or with the people he has put into my life
  3. Each time I was fully present, I wasn’t thinking about past issues, my own weaknesses/faults or things that I had to resolve; and I wasn’t planning the future, but I was truly present in the place I was seeing, hearing, feeling each moment
  4. And finally, each time, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. If I knew the words, I would have recited today’s psalm “thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his love is everlasting”

We will have to suffer trials as St. Paul tells us and we are experiencing right now with the coronavirus, however, if we rest in God’s arms and give him our burdens and worries, the distance to peace is not that far.

So, this week, one piece of homework…pick one day where you can carve out 10 minutes.

Find a place that is quiet (could be inside or outside), say a prayer to God for Him to help you be fully present and block out all past thoughts or future worries.   Feel God’s presence through nature (a flower or a tree), or with a family member holding you, and thank Him for all the times He is with you on your journey and you don’t even know.

Remember, “hide and seek” is easier than you think.

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Death Is Not The End Of The Story

Rottenhammer_Resurrection_of_Christ

Easter 2020

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: April 12, 2020

Jesus is dead.  For the Scribes, the Chief Priests, Pontius Pilate and those around them, that is all that they saw.  Jesus is dead and they did not need to pay any more attention to him.

What they were unable to see was the mystery of the Resurrection.  Jesus is Risen.  His lasting presence continued on in the life of the church.  Death was not the end of the story.

Throughout history, there have been those, usually people in power, who have declared again,

Jesus is dead.  Now he was declared dead as they saw the end of his body, the Church.  The Roman Empire persecuting the Christians often saw the Church as dead.

Throughout the ages this continued in Kings, leaders, atheistic communism, all declaring at some time or another, the Church is dead.  In the 20th Century there were many movements and groups declaring that the Church is dead, sometimes along with God is dead.  They were like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate declaring that Jesus is dead.

What all failed to see was the mystery of the Resurrection, Jesus is Risen.  Time and again, the Church rises up, it continues on despite all set backs, hardships, storms, and even our own human failings.  Death is not the end of the story.

We are in the midst of the worldwide Covid Pandemic.  Churches are closed.  People are unable to gather for the Sunday Eucharist, some for the first time in their life.  On the surface, we might be saying, the Church is dead, or at least, the Church is closed. But, like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate, we would be failing to see the mystery of the Resurrection.

In the midst of this Pandemic, there is new life springing up, often quietly and unnoticed.

We see families praying together at home, some more than ever before.

We see people discovering ways to pray for the first time, meditation, praying with the Word of  God, the rosary.

In our parish, a group of volunteers have been calling through all names on our parish database. For many, it was maybe the first time they have received a personal contact from the parish.

For one person dying in the hospital, when the priest was not allowed to enter, the prayers were said through a cell phone on speaker and her sons at the bedside gave the final blessing over their mother.

There are people connecting with relatives and friends whom they have not spoken to for a long time.

There are healthcare workers serving in a truly self-giving way, models of Christ’s self-giving love.

Are our eyes open to see beyond death to the mystery of the Resurrection? How many other signs of new life are you able to see at this time?

Death is not the end of the story.  The Resurrection reveals that love and life are the end of the story.

In this moment, we have many experiences of death in our midst.  Like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate, saying Jesus is dead, we also might see only the death.

But, we need to keep our eyes opened to see what follows.  Where is Resurrection taking place?

Death is not the end of the story.  With eyes of Faith we can see the mystery of Resurrection.

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Do You Know What I Have Done For You?

Jesus_washing_Peter's_feet-smaller

Holy Thursday 2020

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: April 9, 2020

“Do you know what I have done for you?”

Jesus finishes the washing of his apostle’s feet, puts his outer robe back on and looks at his apostles and asks them this question.

And I think, he looks at us and asks us the same question!

But let’s go back – Picture yourself in the apostle’s place:

Normally, in that time, at the door there would be a bowl of water and a towel by the door as the roads were dusty and they wore only sandals.  People’s feet would get very dirty and when they entered someone’s house, the water and towel were there to help them clean up.

If someone were rich or powerful, they would have a slave or servant clean the people’s feet for them as a service of course and also probably as a sign of their power.

The apostles are used to having the lowest member of society, the slave, performing this function and I am sure that Jesus kneeling down and washing their feet was shocking for them!

This was the Master, the Messiah, the future King of Israel!  There is no way that he should be washing the feet of other people!

Why do you think Peter had the reaction he did?  Imagine the apostle’s faces when Jesus stood up – that is why he asked the question – “Do you know what I have done for you?”

These are questions that we can always ask ourselves, but tonight Christ asks it of us – Do you know what I have done for you?

  • Do we really know that He came to earth for us to bring us back to a close relationship with God?
  • Do we really know that He came to give us an example in life – that if we follow His model of how to love God and love our neighbour, then the “kingdom of God”, the strong, close, loving relationship with God is available to us here and now?
  • Do we really know in our hearts that the Eucharist we celebrate tonight and at every mass is a gift given to us by Jesus himself – “Do this in memory of me” – Why? So that we can have a physical sign that we can see, touch, and taste that shows us that Christ is present with us right now!! He is not far away and untouchable but here and available to us as a friend on the journey of life.
  • Do we really realize that Christ gave us this model to follow – “as I have done for you, you should also do”?

In some ways, this should not be a surprise for us as we see this mirrored in our daily lives.

Who else could say this that would help us understand how much God loves us?

  • What if our mothers said to us “Do you know what I have done for you?” every time they changed a diaper, cleaned up a child’s spill, stayed up through the night when we were sick, cried with us when our bones or our heart was broken – each time they show us God’s love!
  • What if our fathers said to us “Do you know what I have done for you?” every time they taught us how to ride up bike or shoot a puck or build a snowman – many times after falling or missing dozens of times and yet they patiently helped us to try again; or when they pick us up at 2 in the morning when we call, or scrape the ice off the car for us before they leave at 5am for work – each time they show us God’s love!
  • What if our spouse said to us “Do you know what I have done for you?” every time they make us a beautiful dinner, take out the garbage for us, take us out for a surprise for no reason at all or just sit, put a blanket on us, and watch TV with us when we are sick – each time they show us God’s love!
  • What if our child said to us “Do you know what I have done for you?” every time they make a picture for our fridge, a mud pie for dinner, clean their room without being asked or help their brother or sister with their homework – each time they show us God’s love!

The great news is that as we recognize these moments in our lives when God is acting through us, and around us; He challenges us to do the same – to show the same love as He did when he washed the apostle’s feet.

This is what we are challenged to do in the faith life – to get out of ourselves and instead to be of service – to wash the feet of another – and to show God’s love in the things of everyday life.

As St. Mother of Teresa says – Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love!

Over these next few days of Easter – I would like to ask you to ponder Christ looking at you as He kneels before you and and asking: “Do you know what I have done for you?”

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