Do You Want The Job?
4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 29, 2023
“So, do you want the job?”
In 1907, there was a job advertisement sent out in London, England by Ernest Shackleton looking for a crew for an expedition to Antarctica and the South Pole.
It was probably the most honest and open job posting in history and went like this:
WANTED: MEN FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY.
SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL.
HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
Despite this very truthful and scary posting, more than 5,000 men (and three women) found this job ad irresistible and applied.
If you are like me, most job postings that I have seen never really tell the whole truth do they?
A job that says approximately 20% travel, usually ends up over 50%.
A position that states hours are flexible, many times means that it is okay to work more than 50-60 hours per week, and be available by cell phone.
Most postings only put down the bare minimum of what is expected, and the rest will be told to you later when you have already started!
So, you may ask, Deacon Tom, what do job postings have to do with the readings today and especially the gospel?
When I was reviewing the readings for today, I was thinking about Jesus sitting on the grass for the Sermon on the Mount. He was going to teach the people about what the Christian faith and life was truly about.
He wasn’t going to “sugar coat” it with the minimum standard but instead he was going to tell them the full truth of what was expected!
Up until this point, their basic faith life was following the Ten Commandments, going to sabbath services and maybe a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Ten commandments were all about what not to do! Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet, etc.
But Jesus wanted to give them instead what he wanted them to do. What were the characteristics and behaviours he expected from the children of God.
How were they going to be recognized as the salt of the earth and the light of the world?
How would people know they were Christians and what would that mean in their lives.
So as a way to illustrate this, I thought I would make up a job posting like Shackleton did for the Catholic Christian of 2023, based on the Beatitudes and today’s readings.
I would like you to put yourself in the position of someone applying for this career and listen and make up your mind.
Here we go:
Good morning and thanks for coming in.
The position of Catholic Christian has the following expectations:
- You are expected to be reliant on God instead of being able to control everything in your own life.
- You will mourn and have tough times in your life; things will not always be fair or right, and you will have challenges that you will have to go through for yourself, family and friends.
- You are expected to be humble and though you will have great gifts from God, you are not to show off, brag or expect people to tell you how great these gifts are.
- You will have to forgive many people, sometimes 70 X 7 times, even though you may not feel like it.
- You are not to talk about or gossip about others but instead find ways to support and praise them.
- You are to try and actively push for righteousness in the world and to help improve poverty, inequality, and it won’t be easy as society will always be communicating the opposite with survival of the fittest and to strive for the best cars, houses, clothes, etc.
- You will be asked to spend less time and money on your own interests, but instead to help and share with your neighbours, especially those who are widows, lonely or the poorest.
- You will need to be merciful by putting yourself in others shoes and empathising with them, supporting them and sitting with them, instead of judging how they got in their situation.
- You will be asked to be holy in the sense that you have pure motives and are selfless, with pure intentions. This will be difficult as people have been taught to “do what it takes to get ahead”.
- You need to also push for peace; entire peace in body, soul, spirit by creating peaceful relationships in all aspects of your lives; even with those who don’t like you.
- You will stick out and will be persecuted, made fun of, insulted, or ridiculed, maybe to your face, but more often behind your back as you will be different from most people in how they approach the world.
- And you will be expected to live this life in the vineyard of the Lord for 70 or more years.
Well, that is a very tough job indeed you may say. Before I decide, what is the compensation and benefits?
A great question! The benefits are many including:
- You will have the presence of God in your life that will give you the strength you need on the journey.
- You will have the knowledge that God will bring people and coincidences into your life that will show you His presence in both small and large ways.
- When you are sad, sorrowing, weak, God will bring comfort and peace in your prayers, and by bringing others into your life with the support you need.
- God will have other members of your faith community and even of other faiths, help you to work together to achieve the goals and you never have to do it alone!
- You will plant seeds to make things better, and God will have them nurtured, tilled, fertilized, and grown, though you will not know how, you will see the fruits.
- People will recognize you as salt of the earth, and lights in a dark world and seek your advice, prayers, and kindness not always, but most certainly when they are in tough times.
- You will have a Mother to pray to who will also comfort you and bring your needs even the ones you don’t know how to express, to the Father on your behalf.
- You will have saints and examples of people who have gone through this journey before as lights on the bridge as St. Catherine of Siena has told us.
- You will have the promise of eternal life as we are told “for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him will have eternal life”; and in my house there are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.
This is the honest and complete truth for this position:
“So, do you want the job?”
Thank You For Being Born
4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: January 29, 2023
Sometimes as I reflect on the Scripture readings in preparing for a Homily, I really find it difficult. Some passages seem so profound, so deep, so important, that I feel overwhelmed. I wonder if anything I say is going to be too abstract or simplistic or superficial. That I will not be able to get to the full radical nature of a passage. The Beatitudes is definitely one of those passages.
As I was struggling this week, I noticed a tweet from a Pastor who was reflecting on the Beatitudes to preach this week. He said, “I spent 3 hours today trying to wrap my head around the Beatitudes for this coming Sunday and my brain is actual mush.” I saw several others like that. It made me feel better that I am not alone in struggling to preach on such a profound passage. In fact, the Beatitudes might be the most important teaching of Jesus. As I was struggling with how to preach on this passage I began to remember a movie I recently saw called Broker.
It is a Korean film by one of my favourite Directors. The film shows a number of misfit characters, each of them struggling in life. Each of them living without a family. One whose mother abandoned him as a baby and who spent his whole life hoping she would return for him. Another who was rejected by the mother of his young daughter and was not able to have contact with his daughter. A woman who was in poverty and so was working as a prostitute and felt forced to abandon a new born baby conceived by one of her customers. And a little 6 year old boy from an orphanage, who was abandoned and longed for a family, who snuck into their vehicle.
I will not get into the details of the movie, but at one point as they are out on this journey together, they gradually form a strange little family. One that none of them had ever had before. At a certain moment, the little boy turns to the baby who they were trying to abandon, and says, “thank you for being born.”
Then one by one they turn to each person in the group and say, “thank you for being born.” Maybe for the first time in their lives that they had someone who was thankful that they were born. It struck me that the Beatitudes are ultimately about how we are Blessed by a God who offers us a family and who speaks to our heart, “thank you for being born.”
The Beatitudes reveal the dream of God, for a world where no one is abandoned, where the life of each person is appreciated. It is not about spiritual giants who are impeccable spiritually and morally. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Those of us who have nothing spiritually to offer and everything to receive. Think of the prodigal son who says, “I am not worthy to be called your son.” Only to see for the first time all that he had in having a Father.
When you are poor in spirit, feel that you do not pray enough, do not pray well, you are still blessed. For God says, you are my beloved. When you are mourning, life seems sad and lonely, you are still blessed, for God says, you are my beloved. When you are meek and gentle, but seem to lose in life, you are still blessed, for God says, you are my beloved. When you see war and violence and division in our world, be a peacemaker, for you are blessed by God who says, you are my Beloved.
The Beatitudes are about God’s dream. It is not about being strong, successful, winning, earning God’s love. You are blessed, you are the beloved of God. God is trying to say to you “thank you for being born.” We are to live in such a way that no one is abandoned, that each person feels in our presence that they are beloved.
I want each of you to turn to the people on either side of you now and say to them, “thank you for being born.”
Living the Beatitudes is about being with others so that they feel that in their heart.
What Is True Freedom?
6th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 13, 2022
Freedom: Perhaps the word most in the news these days, is the word freedom. Whether it is the so-called Freedom convoy and protests, or freedom of choice, or just the general ways in our society that we want freedom even from our commitments and obligations. I will not get into the present day political issues, but it is important for us to have a good understanding of a Christian vision of freedom, and in particular, a good Catholic vision of freedom.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has at its heart a call to freedom. This was actually something new in the ancient world. In Jesus, God has revealed the inherent dignity of human beings. Each human being has a dignity that needs to be respected. This dignity includes a real freedom. Through the ages we have continued to deepen our understanding of the implications of this human dignity and freedom. The eventual ending of slavery, the recognition of freedom of conscience and more recently the acceptance of religious liberty.
Christianity, when true to its roots, is a religion of freedom. The danger of religious fundamentalism, including Christian fundamentalism, is that it is often rooted in fear, in the desire for certainty and authority, and usually in a return to an imagined past. This leads away from human freedom, rejects freedom of human conscience and politically often leads to forms of oppression, force, and violence.
We require a Christian spirituality that promotes true human freedom. A freedom that is able to lead to peace, to healing, to non-violence. Jesus was radically free. Free to love, free to share, free to give his life for us. On the cross when sacrificing everything, Jesus was truly free. His was a freedom for something. Freedom for others, freedom for truth, freedom for goodness.
In our western world, we often see freedom in a purely individualistic way. An individualism in which I am free of obligations or responsibilities for anything or anyone else. An extreme, even narcissistic individualism is ultimately destructive, politically, economically, spiritually and ecologically. One of the results of this individualistic vision of freedom is the enormous loneliness within our society. Perhaps the greatest poverty that exists in our western world is the poverty of loneliness.
Jesus was radically free. The personal freedom to do God’s will regardless of what anyone thought or said. He was free to love without reserve. His radical freedom made him fearless. He was not a slave to money or wealth, not a slave to his own security or comfort, not a slave to popularity.
As Catholics, our understanding of freedom is never in an individualistic sense. True freedom is always connected to communion. Freedom is not true freedom if it is individualistic, selfish, self-centred. Catholic social teaching is founded on the dignity of the human being. But, not in an individualistic sense. It is rooted in a common good and in solidarity. We have obligations and responsibilities to one another and to our created world.
We speak of the Communion of the Saints, the very mystery of God in the Trinity is a living communion, the prayer of the church in the Eucharist is a communal gathering, not a private encounter with Jesus. We speak of our planet earth as a common home, we speak of a common human family. We are to care for our common home and for each other.
We just heard the Beatitudes as found in Luke’s Gospel. These Beatitudes are at their core about freedom. A freedom that is always connected to God, to our fellow human beings and to all creation.
Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich, …, woe to you when all speak well of you.” Why? Because if they put their ultimate trust in wealth and money, if they live their life for wealth and money, then they are putting their trust in something that cannot save them. Something that is short term.
Pope Francis in speaking about death this past week said, “I have never seen a moving truck behind a hearse.” All of the things we have, all of our money, the day we die it is all left behind, it is useless. How sad to spend our life for something that will be utterly useless to us in the end. Also, this wealth and riches can keep us from being free. When we fearfully cling to our riches, we can lose our freedom to do what is good and true because we are more concerned with keeping our riches.
Also, are we truly free if we are overly concerned with the opinions of others. If I feel the need to have the approval of others. If I am afraid of not being popular with others, am I really free?
If my so-called freedom harms others, limits the freedom of others, leads to damage of the environment, ignores the basic needs of the poorest in our world, is it a worthwhile freedom?
The Christian faith at its best is a vision of freedom. Jesus himself was radically free. Our Catholic Church with its grounding in the dignity of the human being and the principles of the common good and solidarity, has a vision of freedom. A freedom for love, for communion, for goodness.
Next time you hear a call for freedom, ask yourself, is this a freedom disconnected from God, disconnected from our fellow human beings, disconnected from creation? Is it a selfish, individualistic vision of freedom or is it a self-giving, communal vision of freedom?
Opening A Church In Every Home
Feast Of All Saints
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 1, 2020
During the Covid Pandemic Lockdown I saw the following Cartoon. It shows the devil speaking with God. The devil was very smug saying, “With Covid 19 I closed your churches!” God responded: “On the contrary, I just opened one in every home.”
Wherever there is one person in love with Jesus, who is trying to live as a disciple of Jesus, the church is alive and present as the body of Christ. We are not the church only when we are gathered together in a church building. We are called to be the church wherever we live, where we study, where we work, where we play. It begins in our home, to create a home that is the domestic church, a home where the presence of God’s Spirit is alive. We are called to be Saints by bringing light to every small corner of our world.
We sometimes see the Saints as otherworldly, as beyond us. But, Saints did not live in some great past time when everything was wonderful and great. Most Saints lived in times of great crisis. A crisis within their society, a crisis within the church, or sometimes a crisis in both.
Beginning with the first Apostles who lived at the time of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Some who lived in times of persecution, some of them facing martyrdom, including many even in our own time. Those who lived in times when society had broken down and collapsed. Those who lived in times of division within the church. These Saints lived in such a way to witness to the light of the Gospel, brought the way of Jesus into the society and the church in which they lived.
Our new patron Saint, St. Catherine of Siena, is a model of this. She lived during the Black Plague in Europe which killed large portions of their population and had profound effects on their society. She also lived during the great crisis in the church when the Pope was exiled in Avignon France and there were divisions over who was the true Pope. In the midst of this crisis within her society and within the church, St. Catherine lived the Gospel with courage and brought light into the world of her time.
A Saint is someone who lives their life modelled on the Beatitudes. It is a counter cultural way of life. Look at politics, business, relations within families, so often we see people interested in winning and defeating others. We see fighting and division. The Beatitudes way of life is about win win relationships. It is about being willing to lose the battle to bring about something greater.
Beatitudes offer a different vision of success. One that leaves room for others. The world’s vision of success is success by beating out others, winning out over others, putting others down.
The Beatitude’s vision of success is success that always includes others, brings others along, builds up others. Imagine this vision of success guiding our politics, business, finance, family life, inter-religious dialogue?
There is an election coming up this Tuesday. Some of you may be watching this! I am not going to discuss the political choices being made next Tuesday. But, it highlights an important question we need to ask ourselves.
What type of politicians do we need today? What type of business people do we need today? What type of priests or religious do we need today? What type of parents or grandparents do we need today? What type of teachers do we need today? What type of students do we need today?
The basic answer to all of these questions is that we need them to be Saints. Politicians, business people, priests and religious, parents and grandparents, teachers, students, we need them to be saints.
To do this by embracing the way of the beatitudes.
Coming to pray at the Church is important, but it only matters if we then send people out who are striving to be saints within our world. To bring the light of God into every corner of our world.
The devil or Covid may be able to close church buildings down for a time, but as long as one person is living the Gospel, as long as one home keeps the Gospel alive, then the church is very much alive.
We are to join the Saints throughout the ages by going out today to our homes, to where we work, to where we study, bringing light into each corner of our world.
How are you going to bring light into our world?
We are to open a church in every home, in every corner.