Pastoral Message – October 10, 2021
Blessings and peace to you! I hope that everyone had a great time at our parish festival last weekend. It was special meeting so many of you at this annual event that supports so much of the ministry and service of our parish.
Have you ever had a strange dream and then upon waking up, gave thanks to God because it was not the reality? In his weirdest dream, Fr. John bought a lottery ticket and said to himself: “If I win this lottery, I will share some of my money with the church, with the poor, with my family members.” Well, sure enough, he dreamt that it happened—he won the lottery! But, he changed his mind. In his dream, he wanted to keep it all for himself.
Then a thought came to his mind. He said to himself: “Hey, Johnny! You have been a good Christian for many years. You have even served as a hard working priest for 20 years. You haven’t killed anyone, you don’t cheat or steal. You deserve to take a break.” So, he took a long vacation, invested in the stock market, and bought some mountain and oceanfront properties.
Life was wonderful. In fact, it was so wonderful that Fr. John forgot all about his priestly vocation and ministry. Then, his dream turned into a real nightmare. The economy crashed like it had never before. He lost everything. He was so miserable because he was so attached to the money. Then he suddenly woke up. “Thanks be to God! It was only a dream!”
Money is good and useful, but it can also be an obstacle that limits our journey toward God. In the Gospel today, Jesus gets to the heart of the real problem of the rich young man whose central focus is money. Jesus knows the many ways in which the rich young man is good. Jesus also knows that this rich young man has failed in generosity to the poor. In the eyes of the Jews, he is a righteous man.
There may be a rich young man or a rich young woman in our parish today who is considered a very good Christian, but to be a Christian is not only about compliance with commandments. Our lives as Christians includes compliance with God’s commandments, but it is more about conformity with his will and following God’s example of generosity.
Jesus challenges the rich young man—and all of us today — not simply to obey the rules, regulations, and commandments. We tend to want to justify ourselves and to make ourselves look good. Self-justification does not lead to our happiness, though. Happiness and holiness happen when we surrender our entire lives to God. What does it mean to give one’s entire life to God? One way is in our practice of charity and
alms-giving. We don’t have to calculate how much should we give to the poor, how much should I give to the Church, how much should I give to God? Mother Teresa’s advice is simple and direct: “Give until it hurts.”
Years ago, I heard a story about two brothers. At the time of the story, one brother was ten and the other was about five years old. It happened that the older brother had a disease of the blood and needed a blood transfusion. Fortunately, the younger brother had the same blood type, so the problem seemed to be solved. But before the procedure took place, the doctor asked the younger brother: “Billy, are you willing to give blood to your brother so that he might live?” The boy hesitated a bit while he pondered the question. Then, after the pause. the boy answered: “Yes! I will!” After the transfusion, the boy woke up and asked the doctor: “Doctor! When will I die?” In his innocence, the boy thought that by giving blood to his brother, he would be giving all his blood and would die.
As for the Gospel reflection today, let us ask ourselves, how are we going to respond to Jesus’ challenge and invitation? One of my suggestions for all of us is we should be mindful and be more authentic in doing our charity work. When we help our brothers and sisters, we just don’t give them some money and send them away. But indeed, talk to them, buy them some food, even take them to the restaurant and eat with them. Perhaps what they really need is not money; but love and care from another human being. By practicing our charity this way, we hope someday we will able and have the courage to give God all we have. Like the young boy who’s willing to give all his blood to save his brother’s life.
Blessings and peace!
Fr. Thanh-Tai Nguyen