Free To Serve


1st Sunday Of Lent

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: February 26, 2023

Jesus was truly free. In overcoming the temptations in the desert, Jesus was remaining free. Jesus was not a slave to the need to have power over others, not a slave to the opinions of others, not a slave to wealth, money and possessions.

St. Catherine of Siena was also someone who was truly free. Her deep union with Jesus, her love for Jesus, led her to be courageous, to be utterly free. Jesus and St. Catherine were free in the true sense of being free. Not free to do what they wanted in a selfish way. They were free to love, free from being controlled by the opinions of others and free to give their life for the sake of others. They were free to serve.

Are you free to serve? As Catholics, we are called to live within community. We are not individualistic, not just doing my own thing with no consideration of the common good. We have the best chance of being faithful and free if we remain connected to a community. For most of us one Catholic community we belong to is our parish.

This weekend we are having a Stewardship focus to reflect on ways that we live and serve within our St. Catherine of Siena Parish. It is the union of two former parishes and some time this year we will be moving in to a new church. But, a parish is not a building. It is the local body of Christ, it is the gathering of the People of God.  A parish is as vibrant and alive as the members of that parish.

Today you received a Stewardship reflection sheet on the way into the church. The front has a saying called, “This is My Parish.” Let us say it together.  It highlights that each of us is called to look at how we serve in building up our parish.

\We are to reflect on how we contribute to our parish financially in our Sunday offering. Each of us should review what we contribute and see if I could offer even a bit more. But, today I am not focused on financial contributions. Rather, we are looking at our various ways of serving as a member of this parish.

This includes many of our seniors who are shut-ins and unable to come to the church. I know that many of them serve our parish by their prayers. Each of us should make an effort to pray for our parish. Those
shut-ins praying are a great foundation of our parish.

Young children are also a great gift to the parish. Though they may be too young to do anything in service, just by their presence among us on Sunday, they are a reminder of Jesus telling us that we need to be like children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I now encourage all of you to reflect on ways you want to serve in our parish, especially as we prepare to enter our new church building. Let us walk through this Stewardship Pamphlet together. ( Where are you called to serve?

My favourite quote from St. Catherine of Siena is the following: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” St. Catherine is a great model for each of us. Follow God’s plan for you. If you do that you will make a real difference in the world.

You will become truly free as Jesus was free. Be free like Jesus, be free like St. Catherine of Siena. Be free to serve.

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Have A Servant Heart


29th Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: October 17, 2021

What is a good motivation for us to be Christians?  Our motivation matters.

A few years ago there was a survey of young people that asked them,  “why do you want to get married?”  The number one answer was, “Because I want to be loved.”  The focus in that answer is myself, what I will receive.  Focus on me being served.  But, a good marriage requires two persons who are other-centred.  The motivation has to be rooted in the desire to serve the other, in this case, the beloved.

Many years ago, I remember a very young unwed mother, who had been raised in a very unhealthy broken family.  She probably never really felt loved.  When she had her baby, I went to visit as she requested baptism and I wanted to support them.  As I was there, she looked down at her baby and said, “it is so great, a baby just loves you totally.”  I realized that she was looking to be loved by her baby.

But, a parent does not have a baby in order to be loved.  As though the baby exists for the parent’s sake.  A parent is called to love and serve their baby.  The only good motivation for being a parent is to love and serve the child, not expecting anything in return.

The same goes with the motivation for being a priest.  Why want to be a priest?  Only good motivation is the desire to serve in the name of Jesus.  To serve, not to control, not for privilege.  Years ago a Professor I had while studying in Rome told us why he did not like to wear a priest collar in Rome.  One day he was at the local market and got in line.  When the server saw he was a priest he went to bring him ahead of everyone, including some poor people.  This really bothered him.

The only good reason to become a priest is to serve people in the name of Jesus.  In particular, a parish priest is not about being in charge, or having a privileged position, it is to serve the people of God in this parish.

Why be a Christian?  What is our motivation?  Prosperity?  The Prosperity Gospel has existed the last few decades, especially in United States.  It says that if we follow Jesus faithfully then you will be successful and prosper in life.  Is that really what Jesus taught?

We know our motivation for being Christian is perhaps distorted when we ask, “Why do bad people have good things?”  People will say, “ I have gone to Mass regularly, pray, try to live a good life, why would I get sick, or why would my love one die too young?”

Our Christian faith becomes some sort of contract negotiation with God.  I will do this and you will give me that.  The only good motivation for the Christian life is to serve in the name of Jesus.  To be an instrument of God in the world.

What motivates you?   In our Gospel today, Jesus faces the wrong motivations of his Apostles, who are fighting over their position, their privilege, what they will get for following Jesus.  Jesus is very clear, “… the great among you must be your servant,… For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”

Pope Francis called for a universal Synod of the church.  Beginning last Sunday with a special Mass in Rome.  It will continue until 2023 when there will be a special Synod of bishops.  But, leading up to that, each Diocese and parish in our world is meant to engage in this Synod process.

Synod is an ancient practice in the Church.  It simply means “walking together”, the church journeying together.  It is the realization that in the church we require all of us to walk together, to work together on the mission.

A big part of this Synod will be the Church being a Listening Church.  How can we listen to all people, especially those on the margins who are often forgotten?  This listening is crucial if the Church is going to be a servant Church.  A Church that like Jesus comes to serve not to be served.

This is our challenge as a Church, this is our challenge as a parish.  How do we as a parish become a Church that serves?  One key in this Synod is realizing that we need to be a Church that listens so that we can serve.

An 85 year old woman on her birthday was being interviewed.  What advice would she have for people her age?  “Well, at our age it is very important to keep using all our potential or it dries up.  It is important to be with people and, if it is at all possible, to earn one’s living through service.  That’s what keeps us alive and well.”

Reporter responded:  “May I ask what exactly you do for a living at your age?”

“I look after an old lady in my neighbourhood,”

There are some elderly people who are very limited, shut in and unable to go out to serve.  They can continue to serve by praying for the Church, praying for their family, praying for others.

Love and service heals everyone – both those who receive it and those who give it.

Reflect on your motivation for being a Christian.  Become a person of service.  It will make all the difference for you and others.

As a Church, as a parish, our challenge today is to be a humble servant Church, a humble servant parish.  This requires us to be a listening Church as we journey together in this life.

As Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, we need to be a Church that comes not to be served, but to serve.

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Children’s Liturgy (29th Sunday Ordinary Time) With Rosie




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