The Most Dangerous Prayer


Pentecost 2021

Fr. Mark Gatto

Posted: May 22, 2021

True Prayer is very dangerous.  And perhaps the most dangerous prayer of all is, “Come Holy Spirit.”  When we call upon the Holy Spirit with an open heart then God will want to change and transform us, will want to work through us.  We do not know where that may lead us.  There are many images for the Holy Spirit, such as fire and wind.  We warn children not to play with fire.  We know that wind comes and goes sometimes without warning and we do not have control over where it blows.

The Risen Lord Jesus as he appears to the disciples, breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  The breath of God transforming and changing them. In the story of that first Pentecost, the Spirit came like a rush of violent wind and as tongues of fire.  Then we see the disciples speaking in many languages.  The Church was being transformed and going out to all people, in all the world.

The Holy Spirit is able to transform and change everything.  We see this in the Eucharist when the priest prays over the gifts of bread and wine on the altar.  We call this the Epiclesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit, as the priest extends his hands over the elements.  This symbolizes the Holy Spirit transforming this simple bread and wine into the real presence of the Lord.  This also reflects the Holy Spirit wanting to transform us, the people of God, into the body of  Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the true power of the Church. Sometimes in history, the Church has had political power or economic power.  Sometimes the Church has had great influence and control within society.  But, this is not the true power at the heart of the Church.  The true power at the heart of the Church is the power of the Holy Spirit.  Not a power of control or political influence.  After calling for the Holy Spirit to be received by the disciples, Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”

The great power of the Church is the power of Holy Spirit seen in the power of forgiveness.  Forgiveness has the power to transform people and communities and situations.  When you forgive someone it can be like giving them new life.  When forgiveness happens within a community or family, it has the power to change relationships, bringing healing and peace.

St. Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  True prayer of the heart is dangerous.  For it has the power to transform us and change us.  Often in ways we did not expect.  But, we need to have a heart open to the Holy Spirit, open to being changed and transformed.

We see the power of the Holy Spirit when a great sinner repents and changes.  When a person who is a coward becomes courageous.  When someone who was immersed in riches and possesions changes to embrace a simple way of life.  We know that our prayer to the Holy Spirit is honest when it leads us to love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit often.  That simple prayer in our heart, “Come Holy Spirit.”  At the beginning of each day.  Before each encounter with someone in our family, or friends or coworkers.  Before each social media post.    “Come Holy Spirit.” 

The Holy Spirit is able to transform how we act and think and treat others.

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God Has Spoken


Christmas 2020

Fr. Mark Gatto

Posted: December 25, 2020

Luke describes a vision of shepherds going in haste to see something special.  A multitude of Angels were praising God singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,…”  It all seems like such a wonderful, magical moment.  But, what we see is such a simple, ordinary and very human scene.  A mother, a father and a weak new born baby.

The Word became flesh.  A child was born among us wrapped in swaddling clothes.  In this little baby, the God of the universe, the God who is beyond all and embraces all, wanted to speak to humanity.  God entered our history and time, became one of us, to speak a word to us.

So, we speak of Jesus as the Word of God and sometimes speak of Jesus as the face of God.

The invisible God was made visible in our midst.

In Jesus, the Word made flesh, what has God spoken to humanity?  Here are a few words that capture some of the ultimate Word that God spoke to us in the coming of Jesus:

Love.  That God is love and that we are loved by this God and that we are all called to live a life of love.  We are all connected in a love beyond anything we can imagine.  Wherever there is true love in this life, we are connected to God.  It is love that keeps us connected to those who have died and gone before us.  Love and connection is the foundation and basis of our universe.  God’s Word is a word of love.

Human dignity.  St. John Paul II once described Christianity as “an attitude of amazement at the dignity of the human being.”  We need to recognize our own dignity, each one of us has a dignity rooted in God.  Therefore, we need to treat each person in this life with a sense of their dignity.  The homeless, the poor, those of other religions or no religion, each member of our family, each friend and each stranger.  The dignity of each human being should be the guide to every decision we make politically, economically, personally.  How we respond to refugees, to people of other nations and to each neighbour.  God’s Word reveals our human dignity.

Forgiveness.  So much guilt can afflict us, but God has spoken a word of forgiveness.  God is so generous in offering forgiveness.  God is extreme, even seeming foolish in offering forgiveness.  God wants to overcome evil, not by force or violence, but by wiping it out through forgiveness.

This should lead us to make forgiveness the heart of our way of life, our spirituality.  In fact, we recognize that call to forgiveness, in order to be like God, each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  God’s Word says to us, “I forgive you.”

Poor.  The rich and the powerful and the famous are not worth more than the poor, the weak, the unknown.  God sees beyond all of our world’s ways of judging.  God did not come as a powerful force to dominate and control the world.  God came as a poor little baby with no power at all.  For the God of the universe does not desire to control us but to set us free.  God’s Word is a word to the poor, including the poverty in each one of us.

The final word that I will use today that captures something of that Word of God spoken in Jesus, is the word, Kind.  This is a God who is everlasting kindness.  When we are kind, we are being like God.  When I decided to become a priest, my father only had one piece of advice, “be kind to the people.”  It seemed so simplistic.  Yet, the choice to be kind makes a big difference in our world.

Think about your own experience.  During your day, when one person shows you kindness how does that make you feel?  But, if one person shows you unkindness during the day, how does that make you feel?  A kind word or a kind act can make such a difference.

God’s Word is a word that says, Be Kind.

In Jesus, the Word of God, our God has spoken to humanity.  The words I shared here capture some of what God wanted to say to us.  Take some time to think about what other words you would include in this story.  Someone once asked, “what is the most valuable prayer of Christmas?”  His answer was, that the most valuable prayer of Christmas is Silence.

This Christmas, take a moment of silence, listen in your heart to the word God has spoken in Jesus and listen within for the word spoken to you.

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Giving Up the Hope of a Better Past 


24th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: Sept. 13, 2020

Is forgiveness really a good thing?  How would you define forgiveness?  One of the best definitions of forgiveness that I have heard is the following.  “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.”  We cannot change the past, but we can change the future.  And forgiveness is a necessary step for any new future.

It is for this reason that forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel.  Forgiveness is central to the mystery of God revealed in Jesus.  As we look to Jesus in the Gospels, we see in his words and actions the importance of forgiveness.  In this Gospel passage that we just heard Jesus makes it clear that there can be no limit to our forgiveness.  Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  In other words, no limits.  That is hard, as we see with Peter who wanted to put some limit on forgiveness.

Why is Forgiveness so important?

  • It is the only way to a new future.
  • It is the only way to new life.
  • It is the only way to find a new path.
  • It is the only way to true peace.

In fact, there is no human community that can survive without forgiveness.  No family, no community, no group, no parish can survive without forgiveness.

Our First Reading today is from the Book of Sirach, one of what we call the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.  It contains wise sayings.  This reading offers very strong words against holding on to anger, refusing to forgive.  “Anger and wrath, these are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. …  Does anyone harbour anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord?”  It goes on to say, “Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; … overlook faults.”

How can we expect God to forgive us if we do not forgive others.  How can we expect God to let go of justified anger at us if we hold on to anger toward others.

If God will treat us according to how we treat others, how would that change how we treat others?  If God will forgive us to the extent that we forgive others, how would that change our heart of forgiveness?  Most of us pray that each day when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is in the heart of the mystery of God.  Forgiveness is central to the message of Jesus. Forgiveness is the only way forward for us human beings.  It is a key to a peaceful future. So we need to struggle to embrace forgiveness no matter how difficult it is.

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.”  It is not to forget the past, not to think nothing needs changing, not to ignore the injustice that needs reform.  Forgiveness sets us free from being closed in some negative past.  Forgiveness opens up a door that allows us to work for justice and peace in a new and better future.

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