Posted on: January 20, 2022

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Sisters and Brothers,

What we hear this weekend reminds us of the importance of the Word of God in our lives, and of those who help us to understand it.  It reminds us of one extremely effective way to pour God's grace into our hearts: daily Scripture reading. Ezra reads from the Scripture at the gathering in Jerusalem, and Jesus himself reads from the Scripture at the synagogue of Nazareth, his home town.  Therefore, I invite you all to review all the readings and to reflect deeply.

In the first reading, Ezra, a priest, reads the book of the law for hours to the Israelites and helps them to understand how to live it.  It is so important for God’s people to listen to His Word, to understand and live according to what He says to them.  If God’s people follow what he says, they may experience his Word, as we hear in the responsorial psalm, “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life” (Ps 19).

We cannot understand the Scriptures just as individuals.  The Word of God has a rich meaning and is full of power.  On the Lord’s Day, and daily as well, we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, but the first part of the Mass is celebrating The Word of God. We are helped in understanding the Word of God by our ordained ministers: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.  These people have been trained and called to serve the Word.  They are always reminded to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them.  The ambo is a very holy place, where we proclaim God’s Word to His people and share the message in the homily or reflection. 

What we hear in the Second Reading helps us to see the Church as one great body composed of many members with different functions, strengths, and weaknesses.  Note that the Church has certain members of the body that help all to understand the Word of God.

Indeed, as the Church, we are one body in Christ: through Baptism, we are incorporated into a mystical Body of Christ.  It was one Spirit that moved us to believe in Jesus and to seek the Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit sustains the unity of the Body.

We became a part of this Body after we not only heard the Word of God, bringing out the faith in our souls, but also as we put our love, faith, and trust in the Word, meaning Jesus, completely, through Baptism, which makes our lives Christian in a way that we never have to be alone.

In the Gospel Luke explains to Theophilus that he worked hard as he tried to bring together all information of Jesus that had been written in the Gospel.  He asks Theophilus to help him and offers him the final version to be painstakingly copied so that the manuscript can be handed down to other Ministers of the Word, so that everyone who reads or hears God’s Word will receive the great benefit of salvation.

Jesus has come to fulfill everything promised through the prophets, and to give meaning to the history of salvation lived until that moment.  Here we might say that without God’s Word, we would soon lose our identity and our way in a world overwhelmed by ignorance, confusion, and evil. 

The Scripture continues to ensure that we have access to the Word of God, spoken through all of salvation history, and remain united in the Word of God, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, just like Ezra, Paul, and Jesus himself, the Lord blesses us with people who conserve and interpret what God has said to us throughout salvation history.

We believe God speaks through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand him clearly.  You will be surprised how much the Spirit speaks to you even as you are trying to speak about him to others.

It is important for me to remind you that the Scripture is a unique writing, written by human authors but inspired by God himself.  It is God's love letter to each and every one of us.  It is a flowing fountain of wisdom, comfort, guidance, and strength.  If we take time to read, study, and reflect on it each day, our spiritual life will be filled with "spirit and life," as today's Psalm reminds us.

Therefore, I invite you all:  If you don’t have the Sunday Missal, please help yourself to one and read it, prepare yourself before coming here for the Eucharist; and if you have time, please come on Monday to join Bible Study together.

May God bless us all and may the Holy Spirit be upon us and make us be his messengers for His Word.

Have a blessed weekend and keep warm when the weather is very cold on these days.

 

Fr. Louis Nguyen

Posted on: January 17, 2022

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This weekend we hear the story of something marvelous that Jesus did, and, as John says, it is “the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory”.

Jesus changed water into wine.  He did it at the request of Mary, his mother, after she said “they have no wine”.  The changing of water into wine is a symbol of Jesus revealing his glory. 

In the Gospels we know that everywhere he went, the old was made new.  For example, with Zacchaeus, he changed his selfishness into love; with the thief on Calvary, he changed his despair into hope; and on Easter morning he changed death into life.

Jesus’ presence could change lives beyond those with whom he came into contact, and he continues to do this for those who believe and follow him.  He transforms our lives into something wonderful; he offers us a share in the divine life, nothing less than the joy of communion with God.  I would say that wherever Jesus is, more happiness is there.  He can change our sadness into happiness, our sorrows into joy, and our worry into trust.

Jesus’ power is available to every one of us.  We need his power in order to change the things in our spiritual lives that need to be changed.  I invite all of you to be open and acknowledge his power and allow him to touch and to change you.

As the Gospel for this weekend has a powerful meaning within it, I will continue to do a brief reflection on Mary, based on what she said to the servants at the wedding banquet: “Do whatever he tells you”.

First we learn that Mary does not speak often in the sacred scriptures.  But anytime she speaks, her words pour out with wisdom.  The Gospel today is an example.

Only Mary knew that the wine ran out while the wedding banquet was not quite over, and she knew where to go when the crisis struck: she came to Jesus.  As we know, she reported the problem to her son in private and, turning to the servants, she said: “Do whatever he tells you”.

She gives us the key to stay on task in our efforts to follow Christ and discover the happiness that only he can give.  She is teaching us today how to follow Christ, how to become a mature Christian.

As a mother, she has a good sense of knowing the trouble within us.  She shares with us our concerns and helps us by offering these troubles to her son.

She also has a confidence in Jesus, her son.  She believes that her son can do great things because he is the Son of God.  She acknowledges the divinity in her son.  And we learn that she joins her obedience to God's will when she offers it on behalf of the host of the wedding banquet.

What we have learned are great lessons.  We will ask Mary to be with us, and to intercede on our behalf, just as she did for the groom and bride at Cana.

My dear sisters and brothers, there is no doubt that life is full of challenges, and temptations, and it is easy to get distracted.  Let Jesus be our companion and the Savior he came to be.  Let us give him room in our hearts to let his power take action in our lives. 

Obviously Jesus came onto the earth in order to make his love touch our everyday lives.  But it is up to us to let him in, to come to him.  Come to him, as Mary did, and you will see the “water” of your life, everyday life, be transformed into the excellent “wine” of meaning, purpose, wisdom, and true, lasting happiness that Christ comes to give you.

I believe that we cannot give our lives the meaning, the purpose, the joy we long for, by our own efforts.  During this week, you and I will continue to search and listen for Jesus’ voice.  Do not be afraid, he is all-powerful, he will make his glory shine in our lives and he will change out sorrow to joy, our hopelessness to hope.

Have a blessed weekend and enjoy the warm weather on these days.

Fr. Louis Nguyen 

Posted on: January 6, 2022

The Baptism of the Lord

My Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  In the Gospel, Luke tells us that John is baptizing anyone who comes to him, who wishes to be baptized.  As we know, the Baptism by John is a way for them to repent and to prepare their hearts to welcome the Messiah. 

Indeed, their hearts need preparing, because they are full of selfishness, doubt, arrogance, greed, and all the other spiritual diseases that have infected human nature ever since original sin.

When we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we may wonder - if Jesus is truly the Lord, and if John, the greatest prophet of all time is not even worthy to “untie the thongs of his sandals”, why would Jesus seek his baptism?  Jesus’ heart is pure. He doesn’t need to prepare himself for the Messiah’s coming as he is the Messiah.  he gets in line with the rest of the sinners and receives it.

After Jesus is baptized by John and begins his ministry, we recall the words in Mark 2.14-17 when the Scribes and Pharisees see Jesus at the same table with Levi, a tax collector. They asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  In return, Jesus very simply states, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.

Why would Jesus ask John to baptize him?  We can find the answer in the first reading, from the prophet Isaiah: “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Is 42, 2-3).

I invite you to reflect on these words: “a bruised reed, a dimly burning wick”.  Both are useless, at least, from our point of view.  Even for the Messiah, they are useless.  But he will not break, his light will not quench.  How about us?  We are humans, created in God’s image.  We have more value than “a bruised reed, a dimly burning wick”.

We are fallen human beings… and that is why Jesus comes.  He comes to be with us, he comes to reconcile, to lift us up and bring us back to the Father.  The baptism of Jesus summarizes the mission of Jesus: to reunite each one of us with our heavenly Father, now and for all eternity.

The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism, too.  The ceremony of baptism is one of the most beautiful.  Here, I would like to summarize what one receives in baptism.   In it the one to be baptized is formally given a name and welcomed into the family of God’s people; lovely prayers are said; the body is signed with the sign of the cross; water is poured or one is immersed in the baptismal font.  Water is a symbol of cleansing, and in baptism we are cleansed of sin. In baptism we are given a share in the eternal life of God.

The body is anointed with the holy oil - not once, but twice. As priests, prophets and kings, one is anointed with oil to be God’s minister to the community.  One is anointed with the oil of chrism in order to be able to minister to the world.

The body is covered with a white garment. This is the outward sign of our Christian dignity.  A candle lit from the flame of the Easter candle is given to signify the light of faith.  God calls the newly baptized out of darkness into the wonderful light of his Son as a new creation, with a new relationship with God. What kind of relationship? The Gospel today illustrates this for us: after Jesus is baptized, the heavens open and God the Father says directly to him: “You are my Son, the Beloved, I am well pleased”.

Again, Jesus came to the world in order to call forth God’s pleasure on sinful mankind, to lift us back into membership in God’s family.

Let us offer our praise and thanks to God for giving us the gift of Baptism.  And pray that we will live what we received on the day of our Baptism - a new life, the Divine life.  Let us acknowledge that we are given a new relationship with God that we should celebrate in every moment of our lives. 

May God bless you all.  Have a blessed week - the first week of Ordinary Time.

 

Father Louis