24th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: September 16, 2018
I was reading a book recently called, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity. Do you have any idea what this author says is the biggest lie? It is that Holiness is not possible. Majority of us do not believe that holiness is possible for me, perhaps for some Saint we read about, perhaps some small group of special people, but not for me. But, holiness is not only possible for all of us, but all of us are called to holiness. You are called to holiness.
Jesus says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake, and for the sake the Gospel, will save it.”
Holiness requires that we have a long term view, we cannot be short sighted. It requires that we do not give in to compromise with what is right, true, good. Holiness requires we do not simply accept mediocrity because it seems easier, it does not cost us so much, it is safer and more comfortable, at least in the short term view of things. When we give up on holiness we give up the fullness of life, even eternal life, to save ourselves for the short term.
Even some of those who love us may try to convince us that holiness is not possible. That we do not need to sacrifice to do what is right, that we can compromise on the truth, that I should just take care of myself.
Jesus also faced that, as he explains to his disciples that if he is faithful to his mission, if he continues to work for what is true, right, good, then he will eventually face suffering, rejection and even his death. Peter’s reaction is to tell Jesus that this cannot happen to him, trying to convince Jesus not to follow this path. Jesus strongly reacts to this, “get behind me Satan.” For Jesus realizes the danger and temptation just to take care of myself, to take an easier safer path and forget about the truth, justice, goodness.
We all have Peter’s in our lives. Sometimes we are our own Peter. Telling ourselves that we can just go along with the crowd, do not rock the boat if it will cost me, rationalize my wrong behaviour, telling myself that doing the right thing will be too costly and too difficult.
But, this is a short sighted, short term view of life. It leads to ultimate death. Jesus invites us to a long view, the eternal path, the way that leads to true life.
Many of the great figures in human history, those who opposed injustice, who worked for what is right, did this at great cost, with no sign of winning in the short term, even costing their life at times. Many of the great saints in history also faced opposition, sometimes from family, sometimes from friends, who tried to get them to compromise, to take an easier path, to just take care of themselves.
I think of someone like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who while in a Concentration camp in World War II. A number were chosen to go to the gas chamber. One near Maximilian was a father with children. St. Maximilian offered himself in his place. He gave his life in that moment, but surely kept his life for eternity. He had that long term view that allowed him to do what was holy.
But being holy is not always so dramatic. It begins by simple holy moments in everyday life. A parent preparing a meal for their family, caring for a sick child. A teacher taking time to listen to a student who is suffering in some way. A friend taking time to be with a friend who is grieving.
I see many holy moments right here in this parish by many of you parishioners. You probably do not even realize it or would not think of it, but I see it often.
I will give just one example of a story I heard recently. A man about 50 had a week off work. So, he decided to stay at home and relax, spend time walking his children to school each day and going for walks. Near his home was a retirement home, he drove by it everyday on his way to work but never gave it much thought.
But a week before he read an article about how the average resident in a nursing home gets fewer than one visitor a month. So, that week as he was walking past the nursing home he decided to stop in. Actually he really had to force himself to walk in as he really did not feel comfortable about this.
Awkwardly he approached the reception desk and said, “I live just down the street, and I have a bit of extra time, so I was wondering if there were any residents who don’t get many visitors, I thought I could visit a couple just to brighten up their day.” Receptionist said, “that is very thoughtful, I know just the person.”
Then she pointed down the hall that had 70 or 80 rooms and said, “Walk down the hall, pick any room, knock on the door and you will be in the right room.” So, he uncomfortably went down the hallway and knocked on the first door he saw.
He heard a grumpy “Come in”. So he went in and saw the gentleman sitting in the corner. He introduced himself and sat down across from him. He turned out to be a fascinating man and they talked about life and family, business and God. That was a holy moment, almost 10 years ago, they became best friends.
So, do not give in to the lie that holiness is not possible for you. Do not listen to the Peter’s, among your family, friends or even in yourself, trying to convince you to take the easy way, to compromise, to accept mediocrity, to take care of yourself at all cost. This is a short sighted view, you will be trying to save your life but actually end up losing it.
Be holy, starting today in small ways, in small holy moments.
21st Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 26, 2018
The past few weeks, the clergy abuse scandal has been very much in the news, due to the release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania in the USA. I struggled with whether I should speak on this issue, unfortunately this scandal is not something new for us. For some 20 years we have been made aware of this failure in the church and the damage done. But, a number of you have spoken to me about this, and ultimately we are all united within the church in facing this failure.
So, we all feel the pain, the hurt, and we are all called to continue to make efforts to create a safe environment for everyone in our churches, especially for children. All this in the news, though very difficult to face, is also a reminder to us of the need to be vigilant.
Pope Francis has published a letter to the whole People of God. It is available at the entrance of the church to take home after Mass. Included with it is the statement from the Canadian Bishops Conference. Also the statement of Bishop Crosby is on the bulletin board and available at the Diocese of Hamilton web site.
In our Gospel today, we see a struggle in the early Christian community with the teaching of Jesus about the Eucharist, some disciples are leaving. So, Jesus turns to his apostles and asked them if they will leave too. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Scandal has existed throughout the history of the church, in various forms. Just read the letters of St. Paul to see that. The Church in its human dimension is faced with human sin, with corruption, with immorality. This has been found at every level of the church, from Popes, cardinals, bishops, clergy, the laity.
For this reason the Church is in need of constant reform and renewal. We must always humbly look at ourselves as individual Christians, and as a church, to examine ways we are failing. Like Peter, we ultimately place our trust not in an institution, not in the human dimension of the church. We put our trust in Jesus, the one who has the words of eternal life.
As St. Paul says in our second reading, Christ cares for the Church as for his own body. So, Christ feels the wounds of corruption, of sin, of abuse within the heart of the Church. But, Jesus also wants to bring healing where hurt exists. We do not sit back waiting for Jesus to do something, for Jesus wants to work through us. That healing will only come through us, when we are instruments of Christ’s healing.
In particular, we are to offer gentle care and support to all victims and survivors of abuse both in the church and within society in general. For unfortunately abuse exists in all institutions, including of course in the family.
Today, I am not going to speak about what the Pope needs to do, or the bishops, or what the universal church needs to do. Though the universal church is certainly going to need to continue to undergo a painful self examination, conversion and reform.
Rather I want to focus on you and me, on our parish. What is our response and our call in face of the clergy abuse scandal?
First, be holy in your life. Each of us is to take seriously the call to be holy. To fight against sin, to work for peace and unity. I must start with myself.
Second, we must care for one another. Especially anyone who has been hurt through abuse in any form. We are to create a parish where all feel welcomed and received. A parish where we are all working together. A parish which is like a caring mother.
Institutional and human failure has done great damage to many people. We as Catholics, need to respond with humility and with contrition. As a parish we need to continue to strive to create a parish that is caring, a sacrament of mercy, a place where all we be embraced in gentle care.
Like Peter, all of us do this while staying near to Jesus, who has the words of eternal life.