How To Listen To God’s Voice


23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: September 10, 2023

“O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

How do we listen to the voice of God? As vocation director I would speak to many young people who were discerning their vocation, how God might be calling them in their life. Often they were struggling with how to listen to the voice of God in their life.

How do we listen to the voice of God? It is not as though we will hear an actual voice speaking to us. In Matthew’s Gospel that we just heard, we see the early church struggling to deal with conflicts within the community. A process is established to restore unity within the church community when there are divisions or someone hurts another.

It is all about listening to each other. How do we insure that we listen to each other within the church? Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” By listening to each other we are able to listen to Jesus.

Pope Francis has called for a worldwide Synod that has been in discussion for the past couple years and will have an official gathering in Rome during October. This Synod is ultimately about we as a church learning to listen. Listening to all members of the church. Including those who are often ignored, the poor, the marginalized, those who seem to be on the outside. It is rooted in this basic principle of Jesus, that where two or three gather in his name, he is there among them.

When we as disciples of Jesus gather together in his name and really listen to one another, then he is among us. The challenge for a Catholic parish today, like our parish, is that we really listen to one another.

Listening to the voice of God requires that we are good at listening to one another. Do you listen well to other members of your family? Do you listen well to your spouse? Do you listen well to your children? Do you listen well to your parents? Do you listen well to your friends? Do we listen to each other well within our parish? If we do not listen well to others then we are probably not going to listen well to the voice of God.

I offer three suggestions that are crucial to us listening well to others and to the voice of God in our lives – Silence, Slow Down, Stop Talking

Silence: find times and places for silence in your life. Hard to hear when there is lots of noise.

Slow down: if I am rushing all the time then it is very difficult to listen well to others or to the
voice of God.

Stop talking: I cannot listen to another person if I am talking, if I am focused on what I have to say. Also, we need to stop talking for a while if we are to hear the voice of God.

The upcoming Synod is about our Church becoming a Church that listens. We need to listen well so that we can walk together.

Each one of us needs to work at listening well to others in our life. Only when I listen well to other people is it possible to listen to the voice of God.

“O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

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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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Two By Two


15th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: July 11, 2021

Do you have a spiritual companion?  Someone who is a support to you in living your faith as a disciple of Jesus?  For some of you it might be your spouse, for others perhaps a parent or grandparent.  For some it might be a friend or a member of your parish.  For some there might be a priest or religious or perhaps some spiritual writer that is a great support to you.  For some of us there may be a saint who inspires and encourages us in our faith.

In fact, the reason for the church is that we cannot live a Christian life privately, on our own.  We all need others who walks with us on this path.

We are told in our gospel that Jesus began to send them out two by two.  He did not send them out alone.  Two by two.  This is the model for all Christian discipleship.  We need to have spiritual companions who are walking this journey with us.

Pope Francis speaks of Synodality and the long tradition of Synods in the history of the church, which is rooted in this being sent two by two.  Basically it is about us walking together.  Within our parish as we prepare within the next year to move into a new church, our challenge will be to form a parish that truly walks together.

In fact, I hope to establish a synod body in our parish to help us to listen to all parishioners and to help us to walk together into our future.  In fact, if you are interested in being part of this body then let me know.

When Jesus sends them, he tells them, “take nothing for the journey…”  When we have a lot, when we are wealthy, we can believe that we are independent, that I do not need others.  Often the less we have the more we realize our need for God and our need for others.  We realize we need others on this journey through life and as a disciple of Jesus.

What was Jesus sending his disciples out to do?  They were sent out to proclaim the good news, to bring healing and freedom and peace.  Jesus is sending us out to bring good news, to bring healing and peace and reconciliation.

So, where is Jesus sending us out today?  Look within your family, within your parish, within your community, within our world.  Where is healing needed, peace needed, reconciliation needed?  Go out from here and be an instrument of God as a disciple of Jesus.

But, remember that Jesus sends us out two by two.  Look for good spiritual companions to walk with you on this journey.  Good spiritual friends, fellow parishioners, good spiritual writers, saint models and so on.  It is easier at times to just go off on my own, do my own thing, separate from any community.  But, the long path of being a disciple of Jesus requires that we follow it two by two, that we walk together.

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