Love God and Love Your Neighbour as Yourself

This Sunday we continue to celebrate our school children receiving their First Holy Communion. As Father Alo said last week that this was a great celebration, not merely for our children and their families, but for the parish community.

Receiving the sacrament of communion, as you would know, has multi-dimensional meaning. Firstly, receiving communion is entering into communion with the person of Jesus, the risen and living Christ, in the symbols of bread and wine. Through this communion with Jesus we are open to the communion with God, the Father, in the love of the Spirit poured out in our hearts.

But the mystery of this sacrament does not merely limit there. Once the person is in communion with God, he or she will be able to find their true self. In other words, they are in communion with their own person, understanding and loving one’s self as it is. Knowing how to love one’s self is the very base to know how to love others, to be in communion with others, as Jesus points out in this weekend Gospel.

If we truly know how to love, especially how to love ourselves, we would probably discover that loving is not about indulging, pleasing or overprotecting. Like when one is loving one’s self, it does not mean self-indulgence, narcissism or oversensitivity about one’s self. These thing would inevitably lead to self-destruction.

Loving someone or something is to be able to see the truth in them and accepting it. Loving myself is to be able to see my true self and accept it as it is. As C.S. Lewis said that we don’t always love ourselves because of mere beautiful and nice things about us; we love ourselves because it is who we are, our very selves. God loves us not because we are perfect or good enough. God loves us because who we are, God’s beloved image.

In turn, we love one another not because they are always nice to us (maybe at times but impossibly always!). We love our neighbour because who they are. We need to learn their true persons in order to love them truly. We need to see them as our fellow human beings who are also loved so much by God, in order to love them.

The commands of Jesus to love God, self and others in the Gospel this weekend are compactly expressed in the sacrament of communion that we receive so often but not often realising its fullness and beauty. The question is how we, as parents, grandparents, adults, role models in families, can help and guide our children who will start experiencing and exploring this sacrament to fall into the depth of this mystery of love and communion?

Fr Khoi msc

Ps. I will be on holidays from the 5th of November to the 5th of December. Will see you when I get back!

THE PRAYER OF THE ROSARY

This Sunday (the 7th of October) we are celebrating our feast day, the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of our parish community. Perhaps it is providential or coincidental that this Sunday readings are all about marriage life which naturally and essentially links with family life.

I have to say that this parish community has become my family. The more I live and work here, getting to know more people in the parish, the more I feel like one of you. You are not only parishioners or community members, but friends who know one another and families who are ready to jump in and help when someone is in need. It is just beautiful to see and experience this unique spirit. But of course, family is never perfect – you know better than me. We are different, we disagree, we argue. It is part of being family, being close to one another. But what has kept us going in these challenges, I think, is our faithfulness – keep praying and keep doing what we are called to do in the community.

Nearly every morning on the weekdays before mass, I often sit in the pews (whether to have a bit of quiet time or to prepare myself for preaching or celebrating mass later on) and hear the familiar people praying the usual rosary without fail (I don’t want to mention their names in case they get shy!!!). Quite a few people, even young ones, have told me that at times when they get stressed out, praying the rosary helps them calm down for the moment. If you have prayed this prayer long and deeply enough, you will probably find it no longer a kind of verbal prayer but a contemplative prayer for our hearts and beings. It impacts on how you feel, how you love and who you are. I felt it when praying the rosary as a little boy growing up in Vietnam.

The feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary used to be called the feast day of Our Lady of Victories – marking the impossible Christian war victory over the Turkish army at Lepanto (Italy) in 1571. However, praying the rosary has never meant to merely gain win over military battle. Hopefully we no longer think in this line. Praying the rosary is entering the mysteries of Christ’s life, mission, suffering, death and resurrection through the eyes of Mary, his and our mother. The victory that the rosary can give us is the victory of God – God’s grace to us in the midst of our challenges and difficulties in our marriage life, our communal life with one another.

Happy feast day!!!

Fr Khoi msc

WHO DO WE SAY THAT HE IS?

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus is asking his disciples who people say that he is, then who they (the disciples themselves) say that he is. Jesus moves from a general question, seeking public impression, to a personal question directed at his followers. Peter, on behalf of the disciples, has a perfect answer: “You are the Christ.” However, having a correct answer does not mean a correct understanding. The image of the Christ manifests in Jesus does not fit Peter’s preconception. The Christ in Jesus is a suffering servant. The Saviour in Jesus is a crucified lamb. The God in Jesus is a lovingly vulnerable God. What a shock to Peter and his followers. I personally still find this difficult to grasp and understand.

Today we might have a correct answer to the question of Jesus for us: Who do you say that I am? – You are the Christ, the Saviour, who saved us through your passion, death and resurrection. But do we really believe in what we profess? Do we really believe that in Christ we are saved, not through peaceful, blessed and hardship-free experiences, but through the way of the cross? “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let them renounce themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This is Jesus’ way of redemption and salvation, this is God’s way of transformation and transcendence of self to eternity.

If we believe and say that Jesus is the Christ, like Peter, what understanding do we have about this Christ? How much do we know him personally? We might like to talk to him in quiet prayer so to let him to reveal who he really is to us.
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Also, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all, every one of you, for being present at my ordination to the priesthood and thanksgiving mass last weekend, praying for me over these times leading up to such an important celebration, and helping me in many ways in preparation and the celebrations. My sincere gratitude and blessings to all.

Furthermore, for those who have not heard about my appointment for next year (starting from January 2019), that I have been appointed by the Provincial Superior to be the Pre-novitiate Director (being in charge of the first year MSC candidates) and the assistant priest at Blackburn parish in Melbourne.

It is a great sadness for me leaving this parish community but at the same time I have been called to serve the MSC Australian Province in a different role. However, I will be in the parish until after Christmas. So I still have a few months to serve and be with you all. Let’s be content in the present moment.

Fr Khoi msc