peace

Kingdom of God

Let’s Work For A New World – The Kingdom Of God

Kingdom of God

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: April 24, 2022

Imagine a different world.  Are you able to imagine a different world? A world without war.  Without poverty.  Without racism.  Without anyone abandoned. A world with justice.  A world where human dignity is respected.  A world of freedom.

Jesus came to proclaim a new world, the kingdom of God.  A world different from so much of how humanity has been.  Jesus is the way to this new world, the kingdom of God.

It is for this reason that Jesus was crucified.  The leaders of the Empire, the religious leaders, those in position of authority and power, they did not want a new way.  They wanted to keep things the same because it benefited them.  They were fine with the world as it was and they did not care about the poor, the marginalized, the weak.  But, the Kingdom of God is not satisfied with a world where a few do well and others are abandoned or left on the side.

In our world today, the dictators, the powerful, the rich, still do not want things to change.  They oppose anyone trying to bring about a more just world, a world in which we care for creation, a world in which there is peace rather than a military industrial complex.

After the Resurrection, the apostles, the disciples, including the women disciples like Mary Magdalene, discovered this new hope, this new vision.  We see them living this new way in the Acts of the Apostles.  They believed it was possible for something better.  They were able to dream about a world that reflects the Kingdom of God.  God’s dream became their dream and they had the courage and hope to work for it.

You and me today.  The more united to Jesus we are the more that we will see the world as God sees it.  We are to work to bring the Kingdom of God into our world.  Begin in our own life, our own family, our own parish, our own community.  Jesus is with us speaking those words in our midst, “Peace be with you.”  Why did the Risen Lord Jesus speak those words?  Because the disciples were not at peace.  They were disturbed, discouraged, without hope.  Jesus knows that first they needed peace.  Then they would be able to go out with courage to be instruments of peace.

St. Teresa of Avila taught what she said was the most dangerous prayer.  She said we should pray this way.  “Give us whatever is good for us!”  We should pray, “Give me whatever is good for me!”  This is a dangerous prayer.  We will not usually get what we want or what we think is good for us.  We will often get something very unexpected.  Only in the long view will see how it was good for us, something leading to our holiness.

As disciples of Jesus, as we experience the Resurrection, we are able to imagine a different world.  A world that reflects the Kingdom of God.  Work for that world in our own lives and communities.  Never believe that it is not possible to make this world reflect the Kingdom of God more closely.  Death is not the end, the resurrection shows us the victory over death.  Even the most difficult things in this life can be changed and new life is possible.

Begin by praying that dangerous prayer, if you dare, that St. Teresa taught, “Give me whatever is good for me!”

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acceptance and peace

Acceptance: The Key To Spiritual Growth And Peace

acceptance and peace

4th Sunday of Lent

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: March 27, 2022

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

I remember about 20 years ago when I had my first promotion at Dofasco and after a couple of months I was really stressed.

We had safety issues, environmental challenges, production breakdowns, high costs and the list went on and on and on.

I was working hard and long hours trying to resolve all these things in our department but could never seem to get ahead.

One day, I was having lunch with a friend who was had been a leader for much longer than I, but didn’t seem to get so anxious and worried, and I asked him how he did it.

He said to me “picture your list of problems or challenges as a stack of books maybe 40 high.  If you work extremely hard, you might get the pile down to 30, and if you work not so hard it might climb to 50.  But the secret is that the pile will never go down to zero!”

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

And he was absolutely right!

The word and theme of acceptance is a key to understanding the readings today and for growth and peace in our spiritual life.

We see in the gospel today, the famous prodigal son, that we have heard about so many times and we see two examples of acceptance.

First, there is a key phrase in the middle of the reading: “when he came to himself” or in other translations “coming to his senses”; we see he finally realizes and accepts his situation and decides to ask for forgiveness from his father and start his life anew.

And then secondly, we see the beautiful image of the father running to his son while he is still far off down the road “was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”   The father showed his son that he was accepted back no matter what he did – no questions were asked, no judgements were given, no lectures; just love and acceptance.

Acceptance is a very powerful word in the spiritual life as we will see in three key ways:

  1. To accept that we aren’t perfect and that we need God in our lives
    1. Acceptance is defined as living in the present moment, allowing the situation to be what it is and recognize it
    2. There is a powerful quote on acceptance in the Alcoholics Anonymous organization that says this: “acceptance is the answer to my problems today. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be and I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”  Many times what causes us stress is we don’t have things the way we want or think they should be and this quote reminds us that the world doesn’t have to change for us, but we have to change our perception and accept the present state instead.
    3. This recognition of ourselves as imperfect people, is something we recognize at mass when we say: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,” It is accepting who we are and to humbly move forward, and knowing this, we then invite God in to help us!
  1. To accept that we are children of God despite our faults and failings
    1. Pope Francis says this: “God’s love is free. He asks for nothing in return; all he wants is for his love to be accepted.”
    2. God does not force us, blackmail us, push us, or twist our arms to love Him. He gives us the choice, and we are called to choose to accept that love each day, and each moment.  We may not feel we are worthy of that love, but God loves us anyway.
    3. We have a baptism today, and Olivia will be accepted into our community of faith as a child of God! Now, we may not remember our own baptisms, but we can each claim this same title of “child of God” for that is what we are!
    4. When we accept this fact, we can praise God like we did in the psalm “I will bless the Lord at all times; My soul makes its boast in the Lord; O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.” The entire psalm is positive, thankful, joyful, for what God has done for us and because we know we are accepted and loved.
  1. To accept that others aren’t perfect either, and we accept them for who they are, and where they are at
    1. When we can accept God’s love, and accept that we are children of God, then we can accept others who are the same!
    2. St Frances de Sales says this so beautifully: “It is a great part of our holiness to bear with one another in our imperfections. For there is no better way of showing our own love to our neighbour”
    3. As St. Paul says in the 2nd reading: “we are a new creation, and we are ambassadors for Christ!”  Knowing that we are accepted and loved, we can tell others without any sense of judgement or being better than others.
    4. This is the fault of the older brother. He could not accept or forgive, but only judge and be bitter and this is not the Christian life.
    5. Jesus accepted and ate and welcomed sinners and tax collectors, modelling what behavior we are to have.

So how do we mirror this example in our daily lives?  How do we accept ourselves as weak, imperfect Christians and make the world a better place?

  • As parents we are called to accept our children’s faults and failings and love them unconditionally.
  • As immigrants (which 99% of our families are), we are called to accept our role in the treatment of the indigenous people of this land in truth and work to be reconciled with them.
  • As citizens, we are called to accept new refugees, immigrants, and migrants with open arms and help them enjoy our great country free from persecution, fear, poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • As fellow human beings, we are called to accept those who identify as LGBTQ as Pope Francis told their parents “God loves your children as they are” and “the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God.”  Therefore, when we fly the rainbow flag at our schools, it is because we accept all of our brothers and sisters as children of God.
  • As friends and family, we are called to accept that we may carry grudges and hurts ourselves and knowing this, we try and reach out and build bridges of peace and love with one another.

We are not perfect, and yet we are still loved more than we can ever deserve by our God!

“Once you accept that fact, you will feel more peaceful”

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hide-and-seek

Hide And Seek Is Easier Than You Think!

hide-and-seek

2nd Sunday of Easter

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: April 19, 2020

“Hide and seek is easier than you think!”

I think all of us can remember being children and playing hide and seek either with our family or friends.

I remember playing in my neighbourhood with my brothers and sister and the local neighbourhood kids.  We had rules that you had to stay within our one block and no backyards.

If you followed a fairly systematic plan (spoken like a future engineer), hide and seek was easier than you would think as you found all the key hiding spots.

I was thinking of today’s readings and hide and seek popped into my head.

We hear in today’s readings Christ saying to the disciples in the upper room “Peace be with you”.

And when I think of peace, I think many times for myself and maybe for you, it seems so elusive in this world of ours.  How do we find peace with cell phones, 24-hour news, the internet, work lives that expect answers day and night, children to be raised, elderly parents to take care of, etc.

At times it seems so overwhelming and as hard to find as a small child hidden behind an evergreen bush.

We should clarify that when Christ says “peace be with you” it is not a frivolous greeting but a powerful statement that has been used in the Middle East by both Christians, Jewish followers and Arabs for thousands of years.

It means, “May God give you every good thing including prosperity, well-being, health, completeness and safety”.

The disciples would have remembered at that moment what Christ said to them at the last supper: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…do not let your hearts be troubled, do not let them be afraid”

This promise of total peace is what Jesus told them and he tells us.  It is not just a feeling of calmness, but instead a feeling of closeness and security.  Psalm 131 tells us that we are like a baby sleeping in its mother’s arms, and I think that is a beautiful image of what peace truly is.

Christ tells them this just after the resurrection in order to convey the message that St. Paul has in the 2nd reading: a new birth, a living hope, an inheritance of salvation, the promise of eternal life.  This gives us the ability to know that we have a place in heaven reserved for us, with Christ himself as the one who has prepared it.

I remember my own father telling me once close to the end of his life “I don’t know why people are afraid to die…what kind of faith do they really have?”  It is a little tough, like my dad, but his point was that we hear every Easter how Christ destroyed death and opened the gates to heaven for us…we should be grateful and not afraid of how life will play out.

So intellectually, we may understand that we are supposed to have peace with this great promise, but how do we really attain peace in the here and now as the world speeds ahead?

I tried to reflect back on times in my own life when I truly felt peace:

  • At the top of the Andes mountains with my two daughters looking across ice capped mountains
  • When I would nap on the couch with one of the girls also sleeping on my chest
  • At prayer in a quiet chapel at St. Augustine’s seminary
  • On a walk in the Irish woods with my wife with only the birds to hear our footsteps

I thought about what is common in all these experiences that can help myself and all of us find peace more often and I came up with 4 things:

  1. Every time it was quiet without the distraction of noise
  2. Every time God’s presence was there, with him in prayer or with his creation, or with the people he has put into my life
  3. Each time I was fully present, I wasn’t thinking about past issues, my own weaknesses/faults or things that I had to resolve; and I wasn’t planning the future, but I was truly present in the place I was seeing, hearing, feeling each moment
  4. And finally, each time, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. If I knew the words, I would have recited today’s psalm “thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his love is everlasting”

We will have to suffer trials as St. Paul tells us and we are experiencing right now with the coronavirus, however, if we rest in God’s arms and give him our burdens and worries, the distance to peace is not that far.

So, this week, one piece of homework…pick one day where you can carve out 10 minutes.

Find a place that is quiet (could be inside or outside), say a prayer to God for Him to help you be fully present and block out all past thoughts or future worries.   Feel God’s presence through nature (a flower or a tree), or with a family member holding you, and thank Him for all the times He is with you on your journey and you don’t even know.

Remember, “hide and seek” is easier than you think.

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Guercino-Doubting_Thomas

Be An Instrument Of Mercy, Peace And Healing

Guercino-Doubting_Thomas

Second Sunday of Easter – Year C

Fr. Mark Gatto

Date Preached: April 28, 2019

Like Thomas, we come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe.  The first appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thomas is not there with the others and so misses Jesus and does not believe.  The following week, Thomas is there with the others and so he touches Jesus and he believes.  He makes that great profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.”

We come to Mass each week so that we can touch Jesus and believe.  But, our faith calls us to act.

When the Risen Lord Jesus appears to the Apostles, he says to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  We come to Mass to touch Jesus and have faith.  But, then we are sent out by Jesus into the world.

What are we sent to do?

During Easter we listen to the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the experiences of the first believers after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Today, we heard that people were laying the sick in the street hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall on them.  The Christian community, the early Church, was an instrument of healing.  It made the mercy and healing of Jesus visible and concrete.

Jesus sends us out to be instruments of healing, instruments of peace, to bring God’s mercy into our world.

This past Easter Sunday morning, we saw a terrible act of terrorism in Sri Lanka.  Several suicide bombings, some in Catholic Churches, killing hundreds and injuring more.  The images remind us of the division, the hatred, the brokenness within the world.

Even within our families we find divisions, jealousies, even hatred.  It is clear that our world, our communities, our families, are in need of healing, in need of peace, in need of mercy.

This Second Sunday of Easter is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a reminder of the Mercy of God.  Reminder of our need for God’s mercy.  Reminder of the power of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is essential, it is the power of God, forgiveness is necessary for there to be peace in our world, between religions, in the church, within families, in our own hearts.

Like Thomas, we come to this Mass each week to touch the Risen Lord Jesus and have our faith affirmed.  Jesus then sends us out to be instruments of peace, instruments of healing, to bring God’s mercy into our world and into our families.  Our world, our families, each of us, need healing, peace, mercy.

Each of us is called to be an instrument of peace, an instrument of God’s mercy.  Even one act of forgiveness makes the world a better place.  Have the courage to reject hatred, violence, division when our world offers you that path.  Have the courage instead to embrace the mercy and forgiveness of God.  Have the courage to be people and instruments of peace.

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