Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 12, 2020
Jesus is dead. For the Scribes, the Chief Priests, Pontius Pilate and those around them, that is all that they saw. Jesus is dead and they did not need to pay any more attention to him.
What they were unable to see was the mystery of the Resurrection. Jesus is Risen. His lasting presence continued on in the life of the church. Death was not the end of the story.
Throughout history, there have been those, usually people in power, who have declared again,
Jesus is dead. Now he was declared dead as they saw the end of his body, the Church. The Roman Empire persecuting the Christians often saw the Church as dead.
Throughout the ages this continued in Kings, leaders, atheistic communism, all declaring at some time or another, the Church is dead. In the 20th Century there were many movements and groups declaring that the Church is dead, sometimes along with God is dead. They were like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate declaring that Jesus is dead.
What all failed to see was the mystery of the Resurrection, Jesus is Risen. Time and again, the Church rises up, it continues on despite all set backs, hardships, storms, and even our own human failings. Death is not the end of the story.
We are in the midst of the worldwide Covid Pandemic. Churches are closed. People are unable to gather for the Sunday Eucharist, some for the first time in their life. On the surface, we might be saying, the Church is dead, or at least, the Church is closed. But, like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate, we would be failing to see the mystery of the Resurrection.
In the midst of this Pandemic, there is new life springing up, often quietly and unnoticed.
We see families praying together at home, some more than ever before.
We see people discovering ways to pray for the first time, meditation, praying with the Word of God, the rosary.
In our parish, a group of volunteers have been calling through all names on our parish database. For many, it was maybe the first time they have received a personal contact from the parish.
For one person dying in the hospital, when the priest was not allowed to enter, the prayers were said through a cell phone on speaker and her sons at the bedside gave the final blessing over their mother.
There are people connecting with relatives and friends whom they have not spoken to for a long time.
There are healthcare workers serving in a truly self-giving way, models of Christ’s self-giving love.
Are our eyes open to see beyond death to the mystery of the Resurrection? How many other signs of new life are you able to see at this time?
Death is not the end of the story. The Resurrection reveals that love and life are the end of the story.
In this moment, we have many experiences of death in our midst. Like the Scribes, the Chief Priests and Pilate, saying Jesus is dead, we also might see only the death.
But, we need to keep our eyes opened to see what follows. Where is Resurrection taking place?
Death is not the end of the story. With eyes of Faith we can see the mystery of Resurrection.
32nd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 10, 2019
Once upon a time there was an old woman who died and was taken to the Judgment Seat by the angels. While examining her records, however, they could not find a single act of charity performed by her except for a carrot she had once given to a starving beggar.
Such, however, is the power of a single deed of love that it was decreed that she be taken up to heaven on the strength of that carrot. The carrot was brought and given her. The moment she caught hold of it, it began to rise as if pulled by some invisible string, lifting her up toward the sky.
A beggar appeared. He clutched the hem of her garment and was lifted along with her; a third person caught hold of the beggar’s foot and was lifted too. Soon there was a long line of persons being lifted up to heaven by that carrot. And strange as it may seem, the woman did not feel the weight of all those people who held onto her; in fact, since she was looking heavenward, she did not see them.
Higher and higher they rose until they were almost near the heavenly gates. That is when the woman looked back to catch a glimpse of the earth and saw this whole train of people behind her. She was angry! She gave an imperious wave of her hand and shouted, “Off! Off, all of you! This carrot is mine!” In making her big gesture, she let go of the carrot for a moment – and down she fell with the whole group.
Jesus is faced with certain Scribes who said there is no resurrection. But, Jesus is very clear that there is a resurrection, that in death we are sons and daughters of God and children of the resurrection. For God is the God of the living not the dead.
As Catholics we express the core of our beliefs each Sunday when we profess together the Creed. Usually we use the ancient Apostle’s Creed, whose final line says we believe in “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”
We do believe in a life after death and when we proclaim our belief in the resurrection of the body, we are saying that we remain who we are. We will know each other in this new life. You will know your loved ones and be with them again. We do not become something or someone else or just become part of some mass group. In the resurrection we maintain our identity.
Think of a baby in its mother’s womb and then think of that baby when they are 80 years old. They look very different, have a very different life, but he or she remains the same person. So, in the resurrection we will have a very different life, but we will remain who we are.
As Catholics we have a saying, Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, that the way we pray is the way we believe. What we believe about the resurrection and life after death is celebrated in our Catholic Funeral Rites.
The Catholic Funeral Liturgy uses symbols connected to Baptism and to Easter, since in Baptism we were first united to Jesus and his death and resurrection. We focus on Easter to highlight our belief in the resurrection. The priest wears white garments as at Baptism and Easter. The Easter Candle is lit near the casket or ashes, a white pall is placed on the casket as symbol of the white baptismal garment. Water is sprinkled as a reminder of the water of baptism.
Eulogies are not normally central in the funeral liturgy because we are not just remembering a past life that is now finished. We are looking forward to the resurrection and the hope that we will be together again. In our grieving we are also people of hope.
We are people who believe in the resurrection and life everlasting. This belief we profess each Sunday in the Creed, and we celebrate in the Catholic Funeral Rites. We are also to live what we believe. That means we are to live now ready to enter the life of the resurrection.
We do that by living as children of God right now, by learning not to cling to things in this life, money, possessions, anything that interferes with the way of God, of truth, of justice, of love.
That woman was being carried up to heaven by one small carrot given as an act of love. What are the acts of love carrying us? In the end, it did not bring her all the way, because she was even clinging to this small carrot, “it is mine.” We all need to become free, no longer clinging, this is mine, that is mine. Then we will be sons and daughters of God, children of the resurrection, light enough to be carried into life everlasting.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 21, 2019
Only love can bring true change for good. In our world, in our church, in our families, in any person. Only love can bring true change for good.
God did not use force, or violence, or power to bring about change. In fact, in Jesus we see God letting go of all force, all power, dying on a cross in a way of non-violence. In the
Resurrection we see the victory of love. It is not seen in the news, not recognized by most people, yet in the Resurrection we see that love changes and transforms history and our future.
God does not change us or change the world by force or violence or power. But, through love brings about the change that we celebrate at Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene is a key person and first to witness to the Resurrection. As first to experience the Resurrection and to witness to it, she is often referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus.
So, at his death, she is grieving, sad, lost, she is seen weeping. Yet, it was this love of Jesus that eventually allowed her to see beyond the suffering, beyond the loss, beyond the darkness. She meets the Risen Lord Jesus and sees the work of God’s love in the midst of the great darkness of that moment.
You and I as disciples of Jesus are called to change ourselves, to change the world. We are to challenge and upset the world. But, not by force, not by violence, not by power. We Christians must reject violence and force as a way to change others or to change the world. Like our God, we must only strive to bring change in others or in the world by the way of love.
Many grandparents, parents, spouses come to me sad about a grandchild or child or spouse who is no longer practicing their faith. They wish they could do something to change this person that they love. But, I have to remind them that we cannot bring someone to faith by force, by criticism, by power. I encourage them to pray for that person, pray for them with a heart full of love. Then love that person with a great love. For only love is able to bring change and lead people into the heart of God.
Mary Magdalene had such a great love for Jesus, you and I are called to the same deep love of Jesus. Then like Mary we will be able to see everyone and see all with the eyes of God. Then we will not become lost in evil, in darkness, in injustice, in suffering, in death. Like Mary we will see beyond all of these to the love and goodness of God.
The key to living joyfully in this world, even when faced with darkness and difficulties, is to fall in love with Jesus, with your whole heart. Then you will see in a new way. The key to assisting others to find God in their life is to love them with all your heart.
The death and Resurrection of Jesus shows us the way of God, that force, violence, power cannot bring about change for good, only love can bring about true change for good.
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 1 2018
This is one of my favourite Gospel stories. This very personal, very intimate encounter between The Risen Lord Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene, this woman who is the first to encounter the Risen Lord Jesus. The Tradition calls her the Apostle to the Apostles. The first to profess the Resurrection.
In Mary Magdalene begins a long history of great women preachers, usually always unofficially preaching. In our new parish name of St. Catherine of Siena, we have another of the great women preachers in Church history.
Surprising story though this encounter with Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She does not recognize him at first. Thinks he is the gardener. Same thing happens in the other Resurrection accounts, often the disciples do not recognize Jesus at first. But, this was someone they had loved, someone they had spent much time with over the past years. It is surprising that she does not recognize him.
There was a Bishop from Brazil who tells a story of thinking about and reflecting on the Resurrection accounts such as the Road to Emmaus. And like this encounter with Mary Magdalene he could not understand why they failed to recognize this man they knew so well.
While he was thinking about this there was a knock on the door. It was poor man looking for assistance. The Bishop was a little disturbed that his meditation time was being interrupted. So, to get rid of the poor man as quickly as possible he gave him a little cash, a smile, and goodbye.
The moment the door was shut, he realized, he had behaved just like the disciples. The Lord Jesus had knocked on his door in that poor man and he could not get rid of the living Christ fast enough to return to his thoughts on the blindness of the disciples.
Do we like Mary, like the disciples, fail to recognize the Living Jesus in those people who knock on the door of our lives? Do we fail to recognize the Living Jesus in the person in need right in front of us? Perhaps in your family, your own spouse, your child, your parent. Perhaps in your community, someone grieving, someone alone, someone sick, someone struggling.
Do we celebrate this Eucharist and fail to recognize the Living Jesus present to us in the bread and wine transformed into Holy Communion?
Imagine how we would be here at Mass, how we would hunger to be here if we truly recognized the Risen Lord Jesus here in the Eucharist to meet us?
Imagine how we would be with people in our lives, if we truly recognized the Risen Lord Jesus coming to us in that person in front of us?
That wonderful personal, intimate encounter between Mary Magdalen and Jesus is an encounter that each of us can also share. But, we need to recognize Jesus in this simple bread transformed at Mass. We need to recognize Jesus present in that person in need right beside us.
When we recognize the Living Jesus in the Eucharist and in the people who we meet each day then we will become people who bring hope, people who bring Joy, people of the Resurrection.