Second Sunday Of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: March 8, 2020
How often when you pray are you asking for something? Have you ever been upset with God when your
prayers were not answered?
George Bernard Shaw once said, “most people do not pray, they only beg.” We do not pray to get God to do what we want, we do not pray so that everything will work out as I have planned. That is not faith, but some sort of entitlement. The fact is that life happens while we are making our plans. The stock market falls, we lose our job, a project we were working on fails, a relationship is lost, we become sick, a loved one dies. Our world is facing that now with the coronavirus outbreak. All of our plans can be so quickly and easily pushed aside by the events and circumstances of life.
Then we can begin to have problems with God. Why did God do this to me? Why doesn’t God fix this?How is it that God ignores my prayer? How often I have seen someone who after some difficult loss or struggle in life stop praying, stop going to Church.
We need to move beyond an immature notion of prayer as a way to make life turn out the way I want it to be. The true purpose of prayer is to fall into God. To fall into the hands of God with trust and faith. For none of us knows for sure our future, none of us can guarantee what will happen in our lives. True prayer leads us into God so that our heart learns to trust. When our prayers are not answered it is up to us to discover how to live the new, unexpected reality that our life brings us.
Abram in our first reading is called by God, to leave behind his family, his homeland, everything that was familiar to him. He was sent to a new land where he knew no one. God offers a promise, that Abraham would become a great nation and his name would be blessed. But, there was no obvious visible sign that this promise would come about. In fact, late in his life he has no child at all. Today, we recognize that Abraham is seen as the father of faith by the Jewish, Muslim and Christian people all through the world.
In the Gospel story of the Transfiguration, Jesus brings Peter, James, John up a mountain and they experience the Transfiguration. This experience of the glory of God in Jesus would not take away the suffering and death that Jesus would face. It would not take away the failure, the betrayals, the fears that the apostles would face at the crucifixion of Jesus. But, that Transfiguration experience would have been a source of hope, a path to trust for them as they faced thisunexpected and terrible situation.
Our prayer is like being brought up a mountain by Jesus to experience the glory of God. But, prayer does not make everything turn out the way I plan, the way I want. Prayer allows us to continue to trust, continue in faith even when we face the unexpected turns of life. When we face suffering, loss, disappointments. Like Abraham, like the apostles, we embrace these new realities with trust.
Find time and place for prayer in your life. Time and place for silence to dwell in the presence of God. Time and place to come to church to celebrate the Sacraments. These moments are like following Jesus up the mountain. Our experience in those times of prayer will not make everything work out the way you want in life. But, it will help you to face with trust the unexpected, the unplanned events that hit us.
Prayer is not about certainty, prayer is not about planning my life as I want, prayer is not about controlling all that happens in my life. True prayer is about trust, about falling into the heart of God, about accepting all that life brings, including the surprises.
29th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 20, 2019
Do you bother God? Well, you should bother God. Go ahead and bother God. Jesus himself is encouraging us to bother God. Pray with perseverance. Keep going back to God in prayer. It is faith to keep praying even when it seems we are getting no answer, when God seems silent.
We see an example of persevering prayer in our first reading. In this story of the people of Israel in a great battle, we see Moses at the top of the hill with the staff of God. As long as he is holding it up, they were winning. But, when his arms got tired and he lowered the staff, then they were being defeated. So, to keep his arms lifted with the staff they sat Moses on a stone and two others held up his arms.
His raised arms were a symbol of prayer, of trusting in God. This is why the Church matters, we also need others to assist us, to hold up our arms when we are tired, losing faith.
What do you think is the number one request I receive as a priest? The number one thing that people ask me, is to pray for them or to pray for a loved one. As a Pastor, everyday I pray for people of our parish. Some who have asked me, others who come to mind to me because I know they have some special need at this time.
I also know that one of the great strengths for me, is that there are many parishioners, many people who pray for me each day. The prayer of others for me is like Moses having the two others hold up his arms. There is a grace and strength that comes through the prayer of others for us.
This is called the Prayer of Intercession. To pray for someone else, to intercede for them. This prayer of intercession is so powerful and so helpful. It is a reminder that we are not alone in this life, that we are united in this journey, walking together in faith. Pray for others, become intercessors. Some people create an actual list, with a list of people they plan to pray for each day.
As I said, as a Pastor, one of the duties I have in my vocation is to pray for the people of my parish. For those who are parents, one of the duties of your vocation is to pray for your children. Never underestimate the power of a parent’s prayer, even when you seem to have no answer.
Persevere in that prayer, bother God. For those of you who are grandparents, your prayer for your grandchildren is so important, it might the only connection they have to the Lord.
You who are teachers, as a Catholic, teaching is a vocation and part of that should be the prayer of intercession for your students. For those of you who are business leaders, employers, you too should pray for your employees. All of us should pray regularly for our parish.
The prayer of intercession is very powerful, it is a sign of faith in God and a sign of our unity to others. When we pray for someone else, it changes us, it changes how we see them.
Intercede for others, like Moses holding up the staff of God to assist the people of Israel. Be intercessors, make the prayer of intercession part of your life. Yes, bother God, bother God with your prayers.
First Sunday of Lent – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: Feb 18 2018
Have you ever been lost? What do you do when you are lost?
Story of a priest who was driving somewhere with his sister. At a certain point it became clear that he was lost, but he did not say anything. His sister realized it too but waited for a while. Then she turned to him and said, “let me know when you are tired of being lost.”
The first step when we are lost is to realize it and to admit it. Now, once we realize we are lost, if all we do is keep going in the wrong direction but driving faster, it will not help at all. The only thing we can do is to stop and turn around.
Sin can be like being lost, going in the wrong direction. Moving away from our true destination. The problem is that often we do not realize that we are lost, or we do not want to admit it. So, instead of stopping, turning around and searching for the right path, we just keep going on in the wrong way. Living lost.
Lent is that time when we are called to stop, to reflect on where we are going. Jesus calls us to repent. To turn around. So, the first step is for us to realize how we are lost, then turn around and find the right direction. The key question to help is know if we are lost or moving in the right direction, is “What really matters?”
There are 3 traditional practices of Lent — Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving. The 3 traditional practices of Lent each help us in recognizing how we may be lost, each help us to stop and turn around in the right direction, each help us to be guided by “What really matters”
- Prayer: Forces us to stop, to slow down, to listen. Often we go through life and it passes as a blur. So, we become blind to the fact that we are lost. We do not even realize it. Sometimes only when something tragic happens or something major hits us that we wake up to see that we have been going in the wrong direction in our life. Prayer can be that little stop that allows us to see that more clearly.
- Fasting: This choosing to live simply, choosing to use less, choosing to let go of some things. It helps us to remember what really matters. When we are too full with anything, we can lose sight of what really matters, what we really need to have life and what we do not need.
- Almsgiving: When we give of our resources in mercy for the sake of others, then we are forced to reflect on who matters? It is not things, not money, but people that matter.
Beautiful story in our first reading of Noah’s Ark. We see the Covenant of God with humanity and creation symbolized in the rainbow. A covenant is simply the promise to remain. Here we have the Covenant of God, the promise to remain with us. The rainbow is the symbol of God’s goodness. Reminder that God does not desire to destroy, to punish. God desires to save, to lead us in the right direction to the fullness of life.
Lent is a special time for us to stop and reflect on our lives, is there some way in which I am lost in my life? Prayer, fasting, almsgiving all can help us to see how we may be lost and to remember once again what really matters. Turn back to the living God of the Covenant, God’s promise to remain. See the rainbow of the Goodness of God. Then we will not lose sight of what really matters.
Dear God, we gather in gratitude for the generations who have come before us, on whose shoulders we stand and whose work we continue. With humility, we look to You to pro-vide the wisdom, guidance and resources we need to accomplish our task. We ask for a fresh empowering of Your Holy Spirit to give us discernment, creativity and clarity.
We thank You for each person’s willingness to serve. Help us work as a team, carefully listening to one another, appreciating our differences and the variety of gifts we bring. Help us be open-minded and have as our ultimate goal the knowing of Your will.
Bless our efforts. Help us work efficiently and help us to be faithful to the mission of our parish. We look to the future with an eager hope and are filled with joy that You are doing a new thing. As we move forward, deepen our faith. Increase our love for You and for one another. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Amen.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: Nov 12, 2017
There is a saying: “Never pray in a room without windows.” Prayer is not to be an escape from the world nor an escape from responsibility. We do not pray and then go sit and wait for God to do something. Prayer should bring us to see the world as God sees it and then to do something.
In the second reading, St. Paul is speaking about the Resurrection, tells the Thessalonians “we do not grieve as others do who have no hope.” For in the Resurrection we have eternal life ahead of us, we have hope beyond this time.
The Responsorial Psalm expresses that deep longing, “My soul thirsts for you O Lord my God.” We hunger and thirst for God, for eternal love, we long to be with God. But, longing for heaven does not mean we sit out this life. As we look with hope to eternal life, it does not mean that this life does not matter. Our longing for God and for eternal life begins with a longing to be with God now, in this life. To see and care for creation, to see and care for our fellow human beings as God sees and cares for them.
In the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, we see the wise ones who took extra oil and so were prepared and ready when the bridegroom came in the middle of the night. The foolish ones did not take extra oil and so were not prepared and unable enter with the bridegroom. They were left out. We need wisdom so that our prayer is not just an excuse to do nothing. Our prayer should lead us to reflect and look at what action is needed. Then we will be ready to enter with God wherever and whenever the Lord comes to be present and work in our world.
Gun violence: Another Mass shooting in the States, this time in Texas. Many prayers offered for the victims and those suffering. That is a good thing. But, God must be tired of being called upon by people who have no intention of looking at the situation and taking responsibility to do something about it. Our prayer should lead us to action, to care, to find ways to work against this gun violence.
Mental Illness: A reality so prevalent in our society. One of the major causes of death among young people is suicide. Prayer for those who are suffering from mental illness and for their families and friends struggling, often in frustration to help them, is a good thing. But, our prayer should also cause us to reflect on this reality within our society. To want to understand mental illness more deeply, to be sensitive to so many struggling with various forms of mental illness, sometimes hidden. Our prayer should also cause to ask important questions about what ways our society could respond in a better way, to provide greater resources for dealing with this reality.
Remembrance Day: A time for us to remember those who have died in previous wars, to honour their sacrifice. Prayer on this day is also a good thing. But, attending a Memorial, offering some form of prayer, is not enough. It must lead us to see that war is a failure of humanity. Our prayer should lead us to being instruments of peace within the world, within our family.
So, pray, but “never pray in a room without windows.” Do not pray and then sit back and wait for God to do something.Pray to see with God’s eyes, to see where and what I might be called to do.As we hunger and thirst for the living God, for Eternal life, hunger and thirst to join in what God longs for in our world today.Then we will be like the wise bridesmaids who were prepared to enter when the bridegroom came.