prodigal son


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.

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Do You Believe In God’s Merciful Love?


Fourth Sunday Of Lent – Year C

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: March 31, 2019

”This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  This is probably not a passage of scripture you have prayed with before.  But, I say it would be a good one for us to spend some time reflecting upon.

This was an accusation against Jesus, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  When someone says they do not go to Mass because there are hypocrites there, or when someone says these people should not be at church because they are bad sinners, this line about Jesus stands out for me.  “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

What was Jesus like?  What image of God did he reveal?  What about us Catholics today, what about our parish?  It should be a compliment if someone accuses us of welcoming sinners and eating with them!  In fact, that is what we are doing right now.

During this time of Lent throughout the world and in our parish, there are many adults who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.  Well, what should someone know to become Catholic?

Perhaps they should know certain common prayers, know about the sacraments, Catholic moral teachings, the bible, key doctrines such as the Trinity, Jesus and so on.

I would say that knowing all of these things are useless unless they know one key thing in their heart.  That they are loved by God, that they are a beloved child of God.  Have they embraced the vision of God that Jesus reveals in this parable of the Prodigal Son?  Jesus is saying that God is like the loving, merciful father in this parable who is always ready to receive us.

A person could study theology, know the Catechism of the Catholic Church by heart, memorize the Bible, but if they do not know in their heart this God of mercy then it falls short.

Do you know that you are the beloved child of God, are you able to accept all others as sons and daughters of God?  The failure of the older son in the parable is revealed in the end when he says to the Father, “when this son of yours returns… “  He no longer is accepting the son as his brother.

A Catholic is not just someone who believes in God, but someone who believes in this God of boundless mercy.

What do you think is the hardest part about being a priest?  In my experience, the most difficult thing about being a priest is to help people to believe that they are loved by God, a son or daughter of God, that God is ready to receive them with open arms.  Like the lost son, many of us feel we are not worthy, surely God could not receive us back.

The second hardest thing about being a priest is to help people to believe that all others are loved by God!  Like the elder son many of us are not able to recognize a brother or sister in certain people.

How many in our world are starving, longing for true love, to be understood, so many are empty inside. Like the son who left who was in a foreign land, hungry, alone.  No one cared about him. We can always turn back, to be received by God, to our true home.

St. Paul says we are Ministers of Reconciliation.  We are to help others to know the God of Mercy. Which God do others see and experience in us?  God needs us to show the face of the loving father, the God of Mercy, help make the loving God of mercy known.

My father’s  only advice and last advice to me before his death about the priesthood.  “Be kind to the people.”  Why?  Probably he experienced a priest who was not kind to him.  How many are not Catholic, have left the church, because they experienced a priest or a Catholic who did not reveal the face of the loving God of mercy?

So, it is a good thing if people were to say about you as a Catholic or about our parish,   “They welcome sinners and eat with them.”

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