Stay With Us
3rd Sunday of Easter
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 23, 2023
If Peter or John or Mary Magdalene were to come to join us at this Eucharist today, would they
recognize what we are doing?
The Eucharist or what we often call the Mass, has been celebrated by Christians for about 2000 years. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word which means “Thanksgiving.” The word Mass comes from the Latin at the end of the Mass, “Ite Missae Est,” the dismissal which basically means, “to be sent.”
Through the ages, the way this Mass has been celebrated has changed. Different languages, different types of music and instruments, different prayers and so on. The first Christians who were primarily Jewish would have celebrated in the ancient Aramaic language. For the first couple hundred years it would have been primarily in Greek as that was the language where the Church existed. We see glimpses of that early period when our choir sings the Kyrie Eleison, which comes from the Greek for Lord, have mercy.
Later on the primary language in the west was Latin since that was the language of the Roman Empire. After Vatican Council II our Roman Rite has returned to using the vernacular, the language of the people, in order to allow for all the baptized to participate in and understand what we are doing at the Mass.
As Roman Catholics, we have a Roman Rite for the Mass, a common Ritual that we use for the Mass that unites us. Ukrainian Catholics, Chaldean Catholics and other Eastern Catholic Rites have their own Rite, a Ritual that they follow. Through the ages there have been changes, additions, developments in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But, what about in the first decades of Christianity, in the very early Church, how would it compare to what we do today?
Well, we have a little glimpse into the early celebration of the Eucharist in our Gospel today from Luke’s Gospel. The Resurrection account story of the Road to Emmaus gives us a view of the structure of the Mass in the beginning. Let’s look at what we see and how it compares to what we do today.
First, we see two disciples who are walking along, discouraged, sad, feeling lost after the death of Jesus. The Risen Lord walks beside them but they do not recognize him. Jesus listens to them as they share what has happened and what they are feeling. Each Sunday when we come to Mass Jesus wants to listen to our hearts, to hear the reasons we may be struggling, discouraged, frightened, sad.
Then, Jesus explains the Scriptures to them, beginning with Moses and all the prophets. Later on the disciples would say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?” This reflects our Liturgy of the Word. One of the two key elements of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Word. In fact, the Liturgy of the Word, sharing in the Scriptures has been a constant part of the Mass from day one. It is something that all Christians through all ages would recognize. It is a common feature of every Rite.
Our Roman Rite since Vatican II has once again emphasized the Scriptures as an essential part of our spirituality and the Liturgy. The breaking open of the Scriptures, letting Jesus talk to us through the Word of God.
After this, Jesus is ready to walk on, but the disciples invite him in to join them at the table, “Stay with us.” Then we hear some familiar words. While at the table with them, Jesus “took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” These familiar words we will hear today at the Consecration. This is another common feature we find through the ages and in the various Rites, the Sacred Meal and sharing in the Sacrifice of Jesus who gives his life for us.
In the Eucharist, Word and Sacrament come together to reveal the presence of Jesus. The early Apostles, the first Christians, gathered for this Eucharist, breaking open the Scriptures and sharing in the breaking of the bread. The Mass continued through the ages in all parts of the world. The greatest Saints shared in this Eucharist.
Today in this Mass, we Catholics here at St. Catherine of Siena parish are celebrating the Eucharist which connects us to the Risen Lord Jesus and to the Body of Christ in the church, in all places and all times.
At each Mass, listen to Jesus speaking to you through the Scriptures, let your hearts burn within you. Then, we invite Jesus to be with us at the table of the Sacred Meal, the altar of sacrifice. Like those two on the Road to Emmaus, we invite Jesus, “stay with us.”
Much would be different for Peter or Mary Magdalene if they were with us today. But, they would recognize the Scriptures we have shared. They would recognize the words of Jesus at the breaking of the bread. We are united with the first Christians through our union with the Risen Lord Jesus and our sharing in this Eucharist.
Be Instruments Of Mercy
2nd Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 16, 2023
The first day of the week. At that time, Sunday was the first day of the week. The last day of the week, or seventh day, was the Sabbath, Saturday. In John’s Gospel, the appearances of the Risen Lord Jesus normally took place on the first day of the week. Already, Sunday had become an important day of gathering for the Christian community, due to the connection to the Resurrection.
In the story of Thomas, we see the disciples gathered on the first day of the week when the Risen Lord Jesus appears to them. But, Thomas was not with them. He misses the appearance of Jesus and doubts when they tell him that they had seen the Lord.
A week later, Thomas is with the community when Jesus appears to them. This time he recognizes Jesus with the great profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” He doubted when apart from the Christian community, he came to see when back with the community of faith.
Coming for the Eucharist each Sunday keeps us connected to the Christian community. Keeps our eyes open to recognize the Risen Lord Jesus in our lives. Alone, it is difficult to keep our faith alive, it is difficult to recognize Jesus appearing in our life.
During Easter, our first reading will often be from the Acts of the Apostles. The account of the life of the early church. We see them praying together and sharing with each other. It speaks of them sharing in the “breaking of bread.” The breaking of bread refers to the Eucharist that you and I are sharing in right now.
What does Jesus say to the disciples when he appears to them in that room? “Peace be with you.” “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them.”
The Eucharist is meant to bring us peace, in the midst of all of the challenges of life, in this moment we have a time of peace. Then we receive the Holy Spirit, in other words, we are to become instruments of God. We are sent out from here with a mission. One key part of the mission of the church is forgiveness.
Each of you are receiving the Holy Spirit today and being sent out to share in the mission of the church. Who in your life needs forgiveness? Who needs to know that God is able to forgive them? In your family, at work, at school, in our parish, who needs you to be an instrument of peace? Where are you needed to help to reconcile people when there are divisions?
On this first day of the week, we are gathered for the breaking of the bread, like the first disciples of Jesus. The Risen Lord Jesus will be here with us speaking a word of peace to our hearts. Then we are all sent out to share in the mission of the church. Be instruments of unity, instruments of mercy, instruments of forgiveness.
Learning By Watching
17th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: July 25, 2021
We learn by watching others. Children learn by observing their parents. We learn to be Christians by watching people who are living as Christians. Who have you observed as a Christian that guided you in being a Christian?
We all need good models in the Christian life. In fact, it is the reason the church presents saints who can be models for us in living the Christian life. But, first of all we learn to be a Christian by listening to and observing Jesus. As we read the Gospels we should be carefully watching Jesus. How he lives, how he treats others, how he speaks, and so on.
Beginning this Sunday and continuing for the next few Sundays, our Gospel reading will be from John chapter 6. It is the Bread of Life discourse. It is a teaching on the Eucharist. So, the next few Sundays will be an opportunity for us to reflect on the Eucharist and the meaning of the Eucharist in our lives.
It begins with the miracle of the feeding of the crowd with the multiplication of the loaves. This is the one miracle found in all four Gospels. It is a vision of the Eucharist in the life of the church. Here it begins with a large crowd searching for Jesus and the disciples. Jesus sees them and immediately is concerned with how to feed this crowd.
Jesus is sensitive to the needs of the people. By watching Jesus here we learn that we as disciples of Jesus need to have this same sensitivity. As a church we need to be sensitive to the needs of people around us and in our community. What do people need, what is the hunger that they have in their hearts?
At Vatican II it says that “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of people today should be “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of the followers of Christ. What are people searching for in our world, in our community, in our parish, in our family?
This weekend, we welcome William Meehan to our parish. He is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for our Diocese of Hamilton. He is doing his studies in Rome, but will be coming for parish experience each summer to our parish.
Years ago someone involved in formation said that when he looks at a man discerning the priesthood, he would ask himself, “can this man learn to be a priest from the people?” I hope that William will have lots of opportunity to be with you people and spend time with you. That he can listen to become aware of your needs and hungers.
This is the call of the church today. We all need to humbly listen and be sensitive to the needs of the people in our community and world. There we will see hunger for reconciliation, for healing, for hope, for mercy, for love in the face of great loneliness.
It is our call as the church to respond to these hungers in human hearts.
We learn by watching others. We learn to be a Christian by observing Jesus. In the Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ. St. Augustine used to say while pointing to the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, “become what you receive.” As we receive the body of Christ during this Eucharist, we are called to become the body of Christ.
Jesus looked out at the crowd and was sensitive to their needs. He had compassion for them. He listened to their hearts. We members of the church today need to be sensitive to the needs of others, listen to their hearts, and humbly respond to the needs we find.
How Do We Want To Be Known
Feast of Corpus Christi 2021
Deacon Tom Vert
Posted: June 6, 2021
“How do we want to be known?”
I think we would all say that Christians and Catholics have a bit of a tarnished image these days. Whether it is the getting too involved in political battles in the US, or the abuse scandals in the world, and the Canadian residential schools tragedy.
People listening to these reports might think of Catholics as exclusive, thinking only of themselves and their image, or even worse.
In the history of the church over 2000 years we have truthfully had highs and lows in the faith, from the joys and excitement of the first centuries, to the Crusades, to Vatican II and everything in between.
“How do we want to be known” is a great question to ask on the feast of Corpus Christi, with the Eucharist as one of our defining characteristics.
So, we have to go back and say what is the Eucharist, what is the history behind it, and is it the same know as it was 2000 years ago?
I was raised as a “cradle Catholic” as they say which means I grew up going to church because I was supposed to, but really had no idea what was going on or why.
Even with seminary training as a deacon, my knowledge increased but there is so much more to learn, and the more I learn, the more I want to know.
Recently, I have been studying the Eucharist, asking “why all these Eucharistic prayers?” “Why is Eucharistic prayer #1 so long and why do we use #2 so much?”
Are these prayers even close to what Christ said and did, and did the early Christians do the same? Did they believe in the real presence of Christ? If the Eucharist is the source and the summit – do I really understand it?
I found a great book from an Italian theologian that reviewed the history of the Eucharist and it is fascinating.
Remember that Jesus and all his apostles were Jewish, so how did the Last Supper align with those traditions and yet become something new?
The gospel tells us that Jesus and his apostles were going to celebrate the Festival meal in the upper room.
From Jewish history we know that Jesus would have celebrated over a large table with the group. He would have said a prayer called the Qiddush, which is a blessing before a meal and includes a blessing of the cup, and then a blessing of the bread.
Christ followed the tradition of his faith, but of course added to it by signifying his sacrifice on the cross by the submission of his body and blood. This changed it from a festival meal to the Lord’s supper which changed things forever, and he asked his followers to “do this in remembrance of me”!
We know that the early church followed the Lords’ guidance, by imitating the Sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice.
We have the first record in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in 53AD: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
We then have a document called the “Didache” or the Teaching of the 12 apostles in 100AD. “Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup…And concerning the broken bread”
The core of the Eucharistic celebration was maintained in the early days, but all the prayers we have now were not there. The key lines were said and then the thanksgiving and prayers to the “best of the presider’s ability.”
There was only one loaf of bread used and this signified the one body of Christ. This is all of us together nourished with the same loaf and we leave the church empowered to live the Christian life as one!
The altar was a large table in a house just like in the upper room which imitated the gathering of Christ and the disciples.
This is one major change at Vatican II that brought us back to the original. Before Vatican II, the priest would have his back to the congregation and say the prayers silently alone.
Now we have a table of celebration in which the priest faces us, and we all gather around the table. On the table of celebration, we put everything forward, our sins and weaknesses as well as our talents and gifts. Everything celebrated together so we support each other, and God supports us through his real presence.
Vatican II deemed that the faithful should participate actively, consciously and devoutly in the Eucharistic celebration and should no longer be outsiders or silent onlookers. It is not a rite to be watched from behind, but a celebration to be lived, the same as it was in the time of the Corinthians.
Eucharistic prayers were added over time in order to help the priests with the “words to the best of their abilities”.
EP #1 was developed in Rome ~600AD and was the prime rite used in Rome a around the world exclusively until the 1960’s.
EP #2 which we use the most is the shortest but also the most authentic to the original 1st and 2nd century rites as it was written closer to 200AD
There are about 8-10 other EP’s that can be used for a variety of purposes.
So back to the question “how do we want to be known”?
Historically we see 3 key characteristics that defined Christians in the first century:
- Eucharist – the early Christians would gather for “the Lord’s Supper” and emulate what Christ told them with the bread and wine – “do this in remembrance of me”. This would be done in an inclusive manner once a week in a small house church.
- Inclusivity – Christianity was the first religion in the empire that included rich and poor, Jews, Greeks, Africans, Romans, slaves, tradespeople, merchants, etc., – all were allowed in just as Jesus taught when he ate and drank with anyone including tax collectors and prostitutes
- Treatment of the poor – the Christians were known not only for taking care of their own poor with help after the Lord’s Supper celebration; but also, the poor in the community and sending help to other Christian groups
These three characteristics should still be the same today – we are to be inclusive and accept all into our communities.
We are to celebrate the Eucharist as Christ told us too and we are to reach out to help those on the peripheries of life that need us.
So, we have to reflect on this key question “if someone were to watch me for a month, what kind of Christian would they deem me to be”?
Are we showing the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”?
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to continue to act in our lives to show the Christianity that God wants to shine forth to the world by asking ourselves:
“How do we want to be known?”
It’s Just Not The Same!
Feast of Corpus Christi
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: June 14, 2020
It’s just not the same!
I remember my father years ago saying this to me. He was diagnosed with high cholesterol and the doctor told him to cut back on the salami and start eating light cheese instead of regular cheese. He told me its’ just not the same (and truth be told a bit like rubber!)
Another example is during this past three months, people have gone to the hospital for procedures and there have been no visitors allowed. Phone calls a few times a day are allowed, but the daily visit, bringing in a favourite food, or magazine or just a more frequent fluffing of the pillow are not allowed – its just not the same!
And of course there is the Zoom or Google Meets or FaceTime video to the children, grandchildren, relatives and/or friends that we have now all learned to log onto – it doesn’t replace the hug, the kiss on the scraped knee, the spray with the garden hose or just a simple high five – it’s just not the same.
And finally, the online mass, the “virtual” Eucharist, the television Sunday church – it doesn’t give the smell of incense, the sound of voices singing together (some good and some not so much, but all with full heart), the sign of peace and of course as we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi today – the touch and taste of the Eucharist – the real presence of Christ transformed as a mystery by the Holy Spirit through the Eucharistic prayer.
Virtual, simulated, artificial, imitation, etc. – all are okay as temporary measures, but real, authentic and true celebration of the mass and the Eucharist is when we are all together as a community of faith!!
This is why I am so excited for next Sunday’s mass, even if at 30% attendance, it is much better than <1%!
Isn’t this what St. Paul is telling the Corinthians in the 2nd reading: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
We are the Body of Christ – the loaf shared together here at mass, and then sent out with the nourishment of Jesus in our bodies to be the Body of Christ in the world each day.
In Corinth, the participation in the Eucharist, the Lords supper, was the defining moment of the action of believers as a community. This defined them as Christians; the ones who were sharing the cup and the bread.
Paul reinforces this with them by two questions:
‘The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
Christian unity is grounded in sharing the loaf; the participation in the mass, enables and energizes the participation in spreading God’s love in daily life.
In Paul’s time, sharing the table, dining with a group was the primary social symbol of acceptance, of belonging, and of mutuality. With the Lord’s Supper as the feast, this was the key component of the Christians, as opposed to others who sacrificed to their own gods and then brought the food to a personal festival.
When we are together at mass, we are to see the Eucharist in this light – as a special time together, where we are partakers with Christ himself present, not a symbol, not virtual, not a simulation, but the real presence of Christ in our midst.
In the gospel we see the people of the time also had a hard time in understanding what Christ was trying to tell them. What is he saying to eat his flesh and drink his blood? It was one of the most difficult passages of the gospel – then and now!
The people of the time though would have understood that when a sacrifice was given at the temple; a small part was for burning, another part for the priests, and the rest for the worshippers to eat. Since it was a ritual sacrifice, it was God who was present and therefore, people left the meal God filled.
It was not meant to be literal – it is a way to be in spiritual union with their Israelite God.
Eat my flesh and drink my blood really means for us to become Christ like – inside and out. He tells us to “Remain in me”, therefore, his word, actions, how he related to others, and his example are the blood and body we are to consume and use as spiritual food for our life.
Blood means life – Jews will not eat anything not drained of blood – but Christ says to drink his blood and attain life – he is our full need and eating of him brings us life to the fullest.
The Jews brought up the manna from heaven from their past and Jesus says that it was temporary, good for one day; but true living bread was himself – if we follow him and eat of his life, then we gain eternal life through his graceful gift.
His saving work of redemption and sacrificing himself is what gives eternal life.
Participating in the Eucharist, thereby, participates in Christ’s life itself.
When we receive the Body of Christ in our hands for the first time in many months, lets us thank God for His presence and remind ourselves that “It’s just not the same!”
Lenten Reflection Series
Wednesday March 25, 7pm. at Corpus Christi Site:
“Catholics and the Bible”. A Liturgy of the Word with talk on how Catholics understand the Bible. This evening we will be hosting two volumes of the St. John’s Bible, a great opportunity to examine this beautiful work of art. See below for more information about the St. John’s Bible.
Wednesday April 1, 7pm. at Our Lady of Lourdes Site:
“Becoming the Body of Christ” A Scriptural Rosary with a talk on the meaning of the Eucharist.
The Saint John’s Bible is a hand-written and hand-illuminated Bible encompassing seven volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. St. John’s Abbey and University commissioned British calligrapher Donald Jackson to oversee the creation of The Saint John’s Bible, the first of its scale commissioned by a religious order in 500 years. The Diocese of Hamilton is home to a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible. It is a fine art reproduction of The Saint John’s Bible. The Heritage Edition reproduces all of the illuminations and text of the original, highlighted using real gold.
Seeing Jesus In The Eucharist, The Poor And Difficult People – Fr. Mark
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 19, 2018
Think for a moment, the all powerful God, the Creator of the universe, chose to become one of us, to become so weak, to be vulnerable, entering our human life and death. This is the incredible humility of God. It is Faith that allows us to see the face of God in this Jesus.
Jesus describes himself as the bread of life. It is Faith that allows us to see that the Eucharist is not just bread, but the living presence of Jesus. The humility of the all powerful God is seen in this as well, Jesus becomes so weak as to be held in our hands, in a sense to be cared by us as we are to receive with reverence. Seeing Jesus in the bread of the Eucharist, this is Faith.
But, we are also to see Christ present in the weakness of the poor. That also requires Faith, to find and see Jesus in the poor, in the difficult people in our life.
The person who is unemployed and in the struggles drinks too much. Some might look at them and call them lazy and irresponsible and not deserving of our care. Are we able to see the face of Jesus?
The person struggling with depression. Some might look at them with no understanding and complain about their lack of effort. Are we able to see the face of Jesus?
The person who commits murder. Some might look and say they do not deserve to live, wanting Capital Punishment. Our Church has stated that Capital Punishment is not the solution and that even a person who commits murder remains a human being who is capable of redemption. Are we able to see the face of Jesus?
The person who is sick and dying with cancer. Some do not want to see this weakness and illness. Are we able to see the face of Jesus?
The person who is a refugee from a country or religion we are not comfortable with. Some would want to reject them. Are we able to see the face of Jesus?
It is possible for us when looking at human beings in difficult places in life, to see them as things, as objects, they often lose their self respect, we see them as less than human. Our Faith calls us to find and see the face of Jesus.
Think of Jesus on the Cross, covered with blood and spittle and sweat, executed as a criminal, how difficult to see and recognize the Christ in this Jesus.
As we see the real presence of Jesus in the bread of the Eucharist, we are to see the real presence of Jesus in the appearance of human misery.
How surprising where we find and see the Christ. In bread, in the poor.
There is statue of a homeless man laying on a bench. But, when you look closely at the statue you see the wounds in his hands of the crucified Christ. Where do we fail to recognize Jesus in the people around us?
A bishop in Brazil told a story of a Sister coming a long way from an isolated hospital. She came by foot to the bishop to tell him that they had no chaplain and he hadn’t had the joy of receiving Christ in communion for a long time. So, first the bishop gave her communion, then he reminded her: “Dear Sister you spend your days with the living Christ, you are there with the sick, there are Christ. You handle Christ with your own hands. This is another Eucharist, the living presence of Christ.”
I think some times of the spouse whose elderly husband is sick and unable to leave their home. She is unable to get to church for Mass because she needs to stay and care for him and there is no one to relieve her. Is she really missing communion with Jesus the bread of Life?
Jesus, the bread of life. We need Faith to see him in the bread consecrated at this Mass. We also need Faith to see the face of Christ in the poor, the sick, the difficult people in our life.