Thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Xuan Loc – Saturday, 27 July 2019.

Hiệp Dâng Thánh Lễ Tạ Ơn tại Thánh Đường Chính Tòa Giáo Phận Xuân Lộc – thứ bảy, ngày 27/07/2019.

– Capitulum Generale OP – Bien Hoa 2019

When we invited Bishop Joseph and Bishop John to speak to the capitulars, they told us: “we welcome you to Xuan Loc not as a matter of favor but as a profound gesture of our communion with you”. I thought that the word communion which has kept coming to my mind since I heard it from the relatio must really be an inspiring message of the Lord to our general chapter. And now Bishop Joseph has invited us to celebrate this sacrament of communion and thanksgiving, the Eucharist.

As we listen to the prophet Zechariah, it is not difficult to imagine that what he said is somehow taking place in this cathedral: Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord to implore the favor of the Lord. We have come from many nations to seek the Lord’s grace, as brothers, that we may become more like Christ-the-preacher, so that what the prophet dreamed may become a reality: “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

How can this be? Who should we be and what should we do so that when we preach people could say: “God is with you”! I know an ordinary but joyful friar who is loved by many. When people see him coming, you could hear some say: “Thanks be to God”! His presence reminds them of God, he is a blessing! But I have seen also one or two grumpy and grouchy friars (I believe they are an exception). When people see this brother coming, you could almost hear them say: “O God come to our aid!”

As we look closely at the Gospel reading, we realize that among the difficult things an apostle ought to do, Jesus repeats only one advice, and it involves eating: “Stay in the house eating and drinking at their table, do not move from house to house” and then again, “When they welcome you, eat what is set before you”. That Jesus repeats this counsel invites us to pause and ponder. Here are the seventy-two, sent to preach the Good News, filled with great power to heal all who are sick; why is Jesus is concerned that the ones he sent might be choosy over food? What is so important about receiving table hospitality that the charge is made twice?

As preachers of the Gospel, we know it is almost impossible to move about with a single set of clothes and with no money in our pockets. But it is also very difficult, at times, to eat what is set before us by the people we minister to. Many years ago, as novices, we spent ten days at a leprosarium, called Tala or Star. One morning, after giving communion to the patients, we went back to one of the wards. A leper who looked eager to welcome guests greeted us. I took his hands for a handshake, only to be shocked and shaken that the hand I was holding was without fingers! Then we were invited to sit down for some refreshment. The glasses of soda and bread they served were clean but it was difficult to eat what was set before us. What if we get contaminated with leprosy? It was also difficult to eat because of the humbling realization that they were probably offering us their ration of food.

Eat what is set before you, Jesus tells us. Before we begin to preach or heal or do anything for the good of others, we are told, not once, but twice, to be served by the people we are intending to serve. Jesus is telling us that we can only feed people if we are willing to be fed by them. We can become more effective in our preaching if we listen attentively to what our hearers tell us. Surely, there is more blessing in giving than in receiving, but what good is giving if no one is willing to receive? Is not the joy that we feel when we give, a gift in itself?

Solidarity is essential for an effective preaching of the Gospel. But solidarity is a two-way street. No one is so poor that he cannot give, no one is so rich that he cannot receive. We must all learn to know our poverty, to understand what we lack, that we may learn to beg, that we may discover our insufficiency — that we need God and our brothers and other people. It is easier to love because we decide how to manifest that love; it is more difficult to be loved, to receive love, because, we are not in control, we cannot know in advance what or how the other would give love. In like manner, it is easier to give because we decide on what we could give; it is more difficult to beg; to learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the people we serve, by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us. No one is so poor that he cannot give, no one is so rich that he cannot receive.

When we eat what is set before us, we enter into a table fellowship with our host. In this Eucharistic celebration, Jesus is the host who invites us to eat what he sets before us. Our ministry and apostolate will only be effective if they emanate from our table fellowship with the Eucharistic Lord.

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