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.
Let’s Throw Our Stones Away
5th Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 3, 2022
This Gospel always makes me ask several questions: Why did they bring the woman and not the man who had committed adultery? I wonder how many of those men who brought this woman to Jesus to be condemned had mistresses or had committed adultery themselves? Interesting that we never have the name of this woman. She was probably unknown, not famous, not rich, not an important person, not someone with influence or power. Always easier to judge and condemn those with no power. Even today, the poor tend to suffer more from the justice system than the rich.
Then I ask myself, how many stones am I carrying around to throw at others?
I also wonder if this story is in the Gospel of John because this was an issue being debated in the early Church. Judgement and condemnation versus mercy and forgiveness. What about in the Church today? Are there certain issues or people that we are more ready to judge and condemn.
Stones are hard. If I threw this at one of you it would really hurt and do damage. We do not throw a stone to help someone, we do it to hurt them.
These men bring this woman to Jesus not to help her repent and begin a new life. They only want to condemn and kill her. Their way of judgement leads only to death.
Jesus is doing something new, the way of mercy and forgiveness, his concern is that this woman repents and that she is able to begin a new life.
When they first come to Jesus with this woman caught in adultery, they present the law, that someone caught in adultery is to be stoned to death. Jesus takes a moment of silence before responding, writing something in the sand. Perhaps to get them all to stop and reflect for a moment. Mob rule rarely stops to reflect.
Then he says, “who among you who has not sinned should throw the first stone.” Jesus is pushing them to take their eyes off the woman they want to condemn and to look within themselves. To examine their own conscience. To recognize that they need mercy and forgiveness. They are more in need of conversion and change than the woman.
What if in our final judgement before God, we will be judged in the way that we judged others during our life? How would you judge others if you knew that would be how God judges you?
We begin the Mass with a penitential rite, we acknowledge our sins, Lord have mercy, Kyrie Eleison. To be aware of my own need for mercy and forgiveness.
We recognize our own need to change, not to give in to hatred and condemnation, not about changing everyone else, but to begin with myself. But, in the light of the mercy of God that allows me to begin something new and not remain dead in my sins and guilt.
This way of Jesus reflects what God says through the Prophet Isaiah, “I am doing something new.”
Jesus is doing something new. The way of mercy. A way that offers a new path forward, the possibility of new life.
The way of those men led only to death. The way of Jesus offers the opportunity for new life. Only forgiveness can lead to something new, new life rather than death.
Someone once described forgiveness this way. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a better past.” We cannot change the past, but we can lead to a new future.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or acting as though nothing happened. Justice is still required and we need to work to bring about reconciliation and healing. But, forgiveness opens up a space for a new life, a new future.
Jesus wants to do something new. Look in our world today. Where is something new needed?
Places of war, Ukraine, Yemen. Something new is only possible if both sides are ready to forgive, if they remove hatred from their hearts, stop throwing stones and search for something new. Humanity continues to remain in our usual ways, spending more money on weapons. This will not bring about something new. It will just continue us on the same path leading to death.
The Indigenous Delegation was in Rome this past week. Reconciliation is a long time project in our country. It will require facing the truth of this past, including the history of residential schools. it will require us as Catholics to acknowledge the involvement of our church in this history.
Forgiveness will be necessary for something new to take place, but we have a deep responsibility to work for reconciliation and to support indigenous peoples of this land to be treated with dignity and to walk with them on the path to healing. We need to be on the side of Indigenous peoples in the future journey that we have together.
Jesus wants to do something new. In the Sacrament of Confession we do not look at the sins of others, we look at our own sins. Not to be judged and condemned, but to receive the forgiveness of Jesus. In this Sacrament we are sent out, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more.
Something new is possible in your life. Do not remain trapped in your past sins. The way of Jesus is not judgement and condemnation, it is the way of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus wants something new, wants us to have a new life.
Let us all throw away our stones. Let us embrace the way of Jesus, mercy and forgiveness.
This is the only way to create something new in our world and in our lives.
The Love Of God
6th Sunday of Easter
Deacon Robin Mendonca
Posted: May 8, 2021
What strikes me about this gospel is the context. That Jesus called his disciples his friends even though this gospel takes place only a few hours before all the disciples either deserted or betrayed Jesus before his crucifixion. And Jesus would’ve known this as well but he chooses to look beyond the betrayal of the apostles and offer them love. And not just any kind of love but the kind of love that he shares with his Father—one that is beyond any human comparison or understanding.
This bond of love between Jesus and the Father IS the Holy Spirit and this love is so intimate and boundless and it knows no limits and its this love that Jesus offers to us. We know that Jesus loves us, however, it’s another thing to experience the abiding love that Jesus has for us. And Jesus gives us the key about how to experience that, it’s by keeping his commandments.
And this is important because knowing the love of God is something that can be lost because we have the freedom to respond to Jesus or not. It doesn’t mean that God stops loving us but that we stop receiving and recognizing that love of God in our lives. It means that we stop abiding in that love.
Jesus uses himself as the example of this. That He too is free to respond or not to the Father’s love but he chooses to offer himself in obedience to His Father.
And then Jesus speaks of “joy” Jesus goes on to speak of the joy that he knows as a result of his absolute obedience to the Father, and the perfect unity they share. Thus, Jesus urges his disciples to choose obedience and to experience his abiding love so that they may also experience this kind of total joy.
Now it doesn’t mean that this joy comes without any type of hardship. Following Jesus is demanding, because we’re not called to simply be spectators, but we’re called to accompany Jesus and pay attention to how he abides in us. And from there, we in turn show others that they are loved by God because we know that love for ourselves. We see Peter do this in our first reading:
Here Peter baptizes Cornelius who is the first non-Jew to become a Christian. Peter knew the love of God for him and he experienced the mercy Jesus had on him despite his betrayal of Jesus. But because Peter abided in Jesus he was able to spread that love. Let us ask God for that grace today: to understand what is preventing us from receiving that abiding love of God.
On another note, today is special day for us to thank our mothers for all their acts of love toward us, big and small. On this day, we have the opportunity to honor our mothers, thank them, and thank God for them.
The Mystery And Gift Of Christmas
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 25, 2019
What is God doing? What is God trying to say to us?
We speak of Jesus as the Word of God. In Jesus, God wants to speak to humanity. God wanted to reveal something to us.
What do you think God wanted to say to us in Jesus? What do you think God was trying to say to us?
This is an incredible mystery and gift. That the Creator of the Universe, the infinite Spirit, who is God, wants to speak to us human beings. Jesus is God’s Word spoken to us.
Some things we know about that Word. First, it was Good News. In this time of bad news and fake news, what a gift to have God speak to us Good News. God spoke this word not in a display of overwhelming power, but in weakness, poverty, simplicity. A helpless baby.
God was revealing the dignity of each human being. Including the poor, the weak, the outsiders, the sinners, those rejected by so-called good society.
Secondly, this Word is a Word of Mercy. God did not come to condemn us but to save us and set us free. So many of us struggle with guilt. We feel we are not worthy for God. But, in Jesus, God says something so different.
Recently I had someone come to speak to me in the church. He had been away from church for a while and felt that he had not lived a good religious life. He said to me that he was worried about coming to the church because lightning might strike him.
But, the mystery of Christmas is God coming among us, to the outsiders, the so called sinners. In fact, the powerful, the Pharisees, the Priests, the so called religious elites of the time did not recognize or embrace this Jesus. It was the poor and the ignored Shepherds who received this Word.
If you consider yourself to be an outsider, not normal, different, a sinner, then that is good, for God in Jesus is speaking directly to you. My hope at this birth of Jesus is not based on my being a priest, rather it is based precisely on my being a sinner, a human being who struggles. For the Word of God, the Word spoken to us in Jesus is precisely for us who are sinners, the outsiders.
In Jesus, our God was building a bridge to come over to visit us and speak to us. In Jesus, our God speaks a word to our hearts.
This Word of God is Good News. It is a Word of mercy. In the coming of Jesus, God builds a bridge to reach all of us. Including those considered outsiders, unimportant, different. This Word is spoken to each one of you.
A Church Of Unconditional Love, A Parish Of Mercy
24th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 15, 2019
What kind of church do you hope for? What kind of parish would you want to belong to? It would be an interesting exercise to let you all give your vision of the church and parish you would want to belong to. The Catholic Church established 2000 years ago with Jesus, in his teaching and healing, in choosing disciples and apostles, in his death and resurrection, is called to be the Sacrament of Jesus. It is to reflect to our world the vision of God revealed in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel that we just heard, we have a key vision that the church is challenged to reflect in the world. The God of Mercy, the God of unconditional love. The God who is like that father watching and waiting for his rebellious son to return, who received him back with a full embrace and calls all to celebrate.
I hope for a church that reflects this vision of God. I hope for a parish here that is a place of mercy, of unconditional love. A parish that reflects that father ready to receive his son back, never rejecting the one who returns. A Church of Mercy, a Parish of Mercy.
Unfortunately sometimes in history, the church has reflected more the older son, who does not want to receive back the younger son, who is upset by the mercy of the father. Who chooses not to recognize a brother in this son who has returned.
The vision of the church we hope for and the vision of the parish we hope for will only come about to the extent that I live that vision as a member of the church or the member of a parish.
For most of us here today, that parish is St. Catherine of Siena Parish, with two historic parishes of Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Lourdes. Soon we hope to begin the construction of a new building to be the gathering place for this parish.
But, we are not just about putting up a church building. We are to form that living body of Christ that reveals the face of God to our world. Including that vision of mercy and unconditional love we saw in the parables of Luke 15.
Such a living community of faith requires all of us to work together, to serve together, to pray together. It is expressed each weekend when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.
At this time I want to encourage all of us to review how we serve and build up our parish. One simple basic way that you build up this parish is by your presence to pray here at the Eucharist. But, any community, like any family, requires people to serve in various ways.
Last weekend at Corpus Christi and this weekend at Our Lady of Lourdes we will be asking all parishioners to review how you are called to serve this parish. There is a flyer in the bulletin and available at the entrances and it can be found on our web site. I encourage each of you to review this flyer in a spirit of prayer during this coming week. Then sign up to serve in some way if possible.
Review the Stewarship flyer HERE
What kind of parish do you want to belong to? Begin first of all with yourself. I have to begin with myself. How might you be called to serve in this parish? But, even more fundamental, we must reflect on what type of church are we called to be.
The parables of Jesus in Luke 15 make it clear that the church must reflect the God of Mercy, the God of unconditional love. We are to be a parish that reflects that father waiting and embracing the lost son when he returns.