April 20, 2021
Lenten sacrifices have come and gone and the final dyed Easter egg devoured.
So what’s next? Is it simply a time of slipping back in the ordinary when it comes to attending Mass.
The Easter season is a lived experience in which people “care, share and dare” in proclaiming the Gospel message, said Father Tat Hoang CSsR, pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church in Baton Rouge.
“Easter Sunday is only the beginning,” beamed Father Hoang.
He exuded joy as he talked about the 50-day season as a time to join in the passion of the early apostles as they witnessed the risen Lord.
Noting that Lent is a good time to lay the foundation for a joyful Easter season, Father Hoang said he woke up at 5:30 a.m. and wrote reflections and a “question of the day” and shared them through emails and social media. He conversed with people around the Diocese of Baton Rouge and beyond and witnessed conversions, seeds planted.
Now people are being invited to join various ministries at St. Gerard to keep that momentum going and build a sense of community.
Father Hoang also fosters the importance of spiritual evangelization.
“People are not only hungry for the word of God but for the real, true joy of the message,” said Father Hoang.
He pointed out some are blocked from living out the Easter message from laziness, fear, anger, resentment or seeing the glass “half empty.” They may also be afraid of God and think he condemns them.
“When he sees someone coming to church, I believe he says, ‘Why don’t you come back?’ He is very grateful,” said Father Hoang.
He illustrated his point with the Gospel reading of the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. In St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room after his resurrection, his first words were “Peace be with you.”
“People have to turn their thoughts from a God of punishment to the God of love and forgiveness,” said Father Hoang.
God is also the giver of gratitude, he added.
“I have three guiding principals of God in my life: God knows me better than myself, God loves me better than I love myself and God’s plan is bigger than my plan” Father Hoang said. “Even through turmoil, I believe things happen not only for a reason, but for a good reason.”
This attitude of gratitude is easy to cultivate. Father Hoang noted when people enjoy a cup of coffee that the cup and coffee are there because workers helped produce them and even the water itself “came from somewhere – God.”
“God has given us so much, let us recognize and rejoice in that,” said Father Hoang.
The resulting fruit of living out the Easter joy is the building a community of evangelizers, with Father Hoang noting the early apostles are the models.
“This is the best time for all Christians, especially Catholic Christians, to pay attention to (the readings of) the Acts of the Apostles,” he said.
Rather than putting the apostles on a pedestal and seeing their way of life as unattainable, Father Hoang said, “The apostles were human just like us in many different ways.”
And the true living of the Gospel message is not easy, he emphasized.
“I think evangelization is lived outside of your comfort zone,” said Father Hoang.
He added it also takes a lot of prayer.
“I tell people, ‘Without prayer, we become a social worker rather that missionary. But through prayer, you don’t do this by yourself but with God,’ ” said Father Hoang.
But like the apostles, Catholics are commissioned to reach out to others by caring about them, sharing the stories of their lives with them and daring them to change.
“This is the Holy Spirit at work. I believe we are the people of the resurrection,” said Father Hoang.
Holy Saturday at Easter Vigil
April 3, 2021
The Easter Language: Alleluia
Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia! Alleluia! “He has been raised; he is not here.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate joy and purpose of his Incarnation (Christmas) and Passion (Lent). Jesus invites all of us to live a life of Easter. How do you live a life of Easter? How do you listen, think, talk, act or believe today? What are you looking for everyday in order to live a life of the resurrection? I would like to use the word ALLELUIA to introduce a few languages of Ester of Jesus Christ.
1)Amazing. If you and I live in the moments of Easter, we see everything with the eyes of wonder and beauty. You can hear “the spirit of life” moving and living inside you and around you. You can understand and communicate with the sun, moon, animals and nature with the language of the heart. Your heart is burning with joy.
2)Lovely. You may recognize everything is so beautiful and lovely, including You. You are lovely. You can look at yourself in the mirror and check it out. You can see God in you. And you can see others in God.
3)Lively. The Easter persons do not live in death, but in liveliness. Even if it seems to be dead and losing in life, they still believe that they will live and live eternally. Because Jesus conquers the death.
4)Evangelizing. The Easter people cannot live in a safe cage of fears and selfishness but in a free spirit of sharing. They go out and proclaim the good news of life, joy, peace and mercy of God to all people.
5)Letting-go. Many people celebrate Easter only one day. The rest of their lives is Lent. They keep holding on to the crucified Jesus. They love to visit and revisit the hurts and the hopeless experiences. Let go and let God is the strategy of Easter.
6)United: The people of Easter live and promote the spirit of unity. Our God is the God of inclusiveness and togetherness. Beware the evil language of division and hatred. The Trinity is the God of unity.
7)Illuminating. Your presence is God’s present for others. You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth. The world needs more light today.
8)Alive. The spirit of being alive is the spirit of celebration. Each life (yours, others’ and all creatures) is blessed by God. God said, “It is good.” Let us celebrate together our lives, faiths and families.
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
Let us speak and live the language of Easter!
Happy Easter! Alleluia!
Question: How do you celebrate your Easter life?
Good Friday – The Lord’s Passion
April 2, 2021
The 7 Last Words of Jesus
Good Friday is always special and unique in my heart. In Vietnam, we observe Good Friday very closely and seriously. I personally mourned in front of the crucifix in white robe and headband like I cried and mourned for my deceased loved ones. I would like to invite you to choose one of the 7 last words of Jesus on the cross and meditate on.
1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34. Forgiveness is the act of love. Love without forgiveness is only fantasy and illutional. Forgiveness truly comes from one who loves God and others so much that they can forget about his/her own self. Without sincere forgiveness, the world continuously and viciously lives in division, violence, suffering, hopelessness and death. We are called to forgive always. Who should you forgive now to breathe freely?
2. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. Paradise is unity. Unity with God is paradise. Jesus wants to be with us always. It’s up to each one of us to desire to unite with God or not. When we live in sinfulness, we are living in hell. The moment we surrender and conform our will to the Will of God, we live in true paradise. God wants us to be with God today and forever. God is gracious and merciful always. Do you want to live in paradise with God?
3. “Woman, behold your son. Son Behold your mother.” John 19:26–27. Relationship is not just important but also necessary and essential for Jesus. We only can live a meaningful life when we live in healthy and generous relationships. Children-parents relationships are sacred for God. We all have parents and families. Do not disown your loved ones. Embrace them and keep them close to your heart when you can. Strong and healthy relationships will assure us for salvation. How is your relationship with your mother/father or children?
4. “My God, My God, have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34. Feelings of loneliness, abandonment and suffering are so real. It is ok to cry out for help and clarification in our prayerful lives. Jesus cried out to his God because he loved God so much. Some of us endure in sickness, homebound and dying. If you are with those who are living in the time of sickness and dying, do not stop them to cry out to God. Be present and be attentive with them like Mother Mary stood on the foot of the cross with her son Jesus. Will you verbally cry out for help when you have a difficult time?
5. “I thirst.” John 19:28. If you and I listen well, we still hear “I thirst” today. Jesus thirsts for our love and mercy. Poor children living in immigration and refugee camps are crying out “I thirst”. People living in domestic violence, addiction and PTSD are waiting for a moment of change. People living in ignorance, corruption and sinfulness deeply desire for a moment of conversion and redemption of God. What do you ‘thirst’?
6. “It is finished.” John 19:29-30. Jesus naturally died on the cross after his body endured so much pain and affliction. Many people, including the young, do not want to continue their lives anymore because of the intensity of suffering and hopelessness. Today we need to honor those who finished their sacred vocation and mission in life for the sake of their families, country and God. May they truly live in peace and joy of God. Do you love your life?
7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46. Everyone must die. Hopefully, everyone also knows and believes where they are going to after they die. Jesus went to his Father. He lived and died for his Father. He will return to God. May we learn to entrust ourselves into God’s hands in order to live fully and peacefully every day. Are you willing to let go of your life?
Good Friday service at 3pm.
Sorry for a long message today! Ft
Wednesday of Holy Week
March 31, 2021
Every time you mention or use the word “I” or “me”, you already know and have so much. You know who you are. You have your body, mind, heart and soul developed. You know how to differentiate you from the rest of the world. But how do you use your knowledge, eyes, tongue, hands, face, heart and so on every day? Most of us have the full capacity of functioning as a human. We can talk, think, move, remember, create, imagine and feel.
Every part of our bodies are good and beautiful in the eyes of God, it depends how we use them. From Isaiah (50:4-9), he wrote, “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear.” God gives us a beautiful tongue to speak and “to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” And God gives us “ears that we may hear.” This image was talking about Jesus Christ who would live beautifully and fully as a human for the salvation of all people. Jesus used all things he had to connect with God and the world. Isaiah continues, “The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” Jesus used his heart and logic to live gratefully every moment of his life.
Unfortunately, some of us do not use God’s gifts in the right place. St. Matthew (26:14-25) wrote, “One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’” Sometimes we use our skills, strength and knowledge to gain for our own interest only. It is very sad to hear Jesus said, “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.”
Yesterday, I met my friend, Madi, who had a very hard time expressing herself verbally. Her parents are always beside her to care for her and to help her speak. If I could not understand her, her parents helped me. Madi was very joyful, grateful, thoughtful and connected with people around her. She used her gifts fully.
Therefore, when I hear or use the words “I” or “me”, I am called to be grateful and mindful of the gifts God has given me, which is my own SELF. I need to use them to the max capacity in order to glorify God and get closer to other people.
Question: What part(s) of your body are you ashamed or afraid of using fully for the goodness of yourself and others?
Tuesday of Holy Week
March 30, 2021
A Little While
Life is short. We met yesterday and it could be the last time. We will go to bed tonight and we are not sure we will get up tomorrow morning. With Coronavirus pandemic, there are so many young and old loved ones passed away silently and quickly in front of our eyes.
Today Jesus said to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” In a few more days, we will experience the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Some of us have a privilege to prepare for the death of our loved ones before they die and be able to learn about their wishes and love. I had a privilege to be with my father in West Jefferson Hospital in New Orleans for 10 days and nights before he passed away 10 years ago. It was a blessing for me. I felt peace and intimate with my dad even though we did not speak much during his cancer treatment. It was painful for him and I was there with him.
Jesus answered Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Jesus lies down his life for the love of us. He is willing to give his death away. His love is enormous and forever. He assures us that we will be with him because he goes in order to prepare for us. We should not be so sad and hopeless because one of our loved ones has to go before us.
Trust in God. Trust in Jesus’ Words. Live fully our lives now. Celebrate our lives every day. Help each other with honor and joy. Then, God will be so happy to see us one day in heaven.
Question: Are you ready to give your death away yet? If not, are you willing to live your life so that you can die for others one day?
Monday of Holy Week
March 29, 2021
Be with Jesus
Six days before Passover Jesus came to the house of Martha, Lazarus and Mary to visit. At this time we already knew that Jesus raised up Lazarus from his death after four days. Martha believed in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus might come to say a farewell and get ready for his Passion.
Be with Jesus. Mr. Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus. Ms. Martha may be busy cooking to have dinner ready. How about Ms. Mary? “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;” Mary was very attentive to Jesus’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs. She did something that nobody could ever think of. Why did she do that? So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
We do not have Jesus like Mary, Martha and Lazarus did in order to be with him. However, Jesus now is in the poor, the vulnerable, the powerless, the voiceless, the sinners, the marginalized, the prisoners, the sick, the hopeless, the loveless, the brokenhearted, the children and the needy. Those who are willing to seek for him will see him and he will be with them.
Be with Jesus in the Word, the Eucharist, the Sacraments, the Works of Mercy. We can be with Jesus in the silence of our breath, of prayerfulness and of daily work. Even though we are forgetting God in our daily life, God is with us always in secret to protect us and to lead us. Be calm! Be attentive! Be generous! God will come to visit you today.
Question: How do you receive Jesus’ visit in your life?
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
March 28, 2021
The Preparation and Passion of Christ
Behind every important and significant act there is a preparation step, including the passion of Christ. I am wondering how did Jesus enter and endure his suffering, mocking, scourging, crucifixion and death on the cross? After actively preaching the good news, healing the wounds of the people, and living a normal life like us, Jesus decided to go up to Jerusalem to die. How did he prepare for this Passion, which is called “giving his death away.”
St. Paul reveals a little secret of Jesus’s preparation in the second reading (Phillipians 2:6-11) today. He wrote:
Christ Jesus, (1) though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, (2) he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, (3) he humbled himself, (4) becoming obedient to the point of death, (5) even death on a cross.
1. “Did not regard equality with God”. Jesus did not expect people to recognize and treat him as God, but simply a master, a teacher, a healer, a son of man. His complete simple life set him up for a perfect journey with God.
2. “Emptied himself” is another secret of Jesus to enter into the Passion. He has nothing to lose. He gives everything away even himself for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of all.
3. “Humbled himself” helps him to be focused and sacrifice with joy and peace.
4. “Becoming obedient” is another key of Jesus’ preparation of his attitude and lifestyle.
5. Last but not least, “death on the cross”. Jesus’ death is the climax and the natural love of everything he did for us. That is Jesus’ purpose: To be lifted up so he can draw us with him.
Redemptorist missionary Fr. James Keena, C.Ss.R. once said to me, “How I live is how I die.” How Jesus lived his life is how he died for us. I imagine how you prepared for your marriage life. Did you only marry the one you loved and the one who loved you? Did you set a lot of expectations and rules in your family? Did you want to be treated with the best love and respect from your loved ones instead of being emptied, humbled and obedient?
Question: Then, how could you apply these secrets of Jesus in your lives in order to enter into your own passion of life so that you can complete and celebrate your passion one day like Christ Jesus?
Saturday of Fifth Week of Lent
March 27, 2021
One Nation…One Prince
I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. (Ez 37:21-28)
How many people want to vote for “One Nation …One Prince”? We are afraid of “oneness” because one can be very dangerous and corruptive. One political party? One airline company? One gas company? One telephone carrier? One language? One culture? One religion? No. No. No way. Too dangerous. Who will be in charge? We can easily go wrong. We need to have “check and balance,” because we do not trust one another; and because we are too human.
This week we will experience the Passion of Christ. Jesus entered into the passivity of his death and died on the cross for all in order to gather all into ONE.
He prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. (Jn 11:45-56)
God wills us to be one. Jesus wants to be lifted up on the cross in order to draw us all with him. God wants us to work together, care for one another, be patient with one another, learn from one another, enjoy the differences of one another, love one another, pray for and forgive one another. Do not create more hurts, deaths, wounds, wars and violences. But let us embrace and heal others’ broken hearts, broken homes, broken families.
God has faith in us. God believes we can do it if we are willing. We just imagine, believe and do it all for the glory of God and for the goodness of others. We will have peace within and without. We have only ONE God, who is so loving and gracious to all. And we are God’s children and sisters and brothers to one another.
Question: What one thing can you do for others to make us more peaceful and united?
Have a blessed weekend! Enjoy 😊!
Friday of Fifth Week of Lent
March 26, 2021
Words are powerful. Words are used in technology, news, communication, sports and spirituality. Words can be used to promote life, peace, unity and beauty. Or words can be used to spread out the destruction of death, violence, division and hopelessness. How many words do you speak a day? How do you use your words? Do your words deserve to be reserved and passed on for the next generations to promote life?
“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.” We are so privileged to be able to listen to the Words of God in our lives. His Words are his Works. His Words transform us into new beings. His Words reveal his Way, Truth and Life. His Words are simple but profound, practical but transformative, spiritual but really living.
Jesus said, “Believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” We are invited to reflect on the works of God continuously happening everyday in us and around us. God’s revelation and creation still miraculously occur today. We need God’s eyes and heart to recognize and understand. May we be attentive to every single action and word we speak and do today to bring forth life and beauty among us. St. Francis Assisi said, “Preach always but use words when it’s necessary.”
Question: How often do you use your words? What do your words mean?
Thursday of Fifth Week of Lent
March 25, 2021
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
The Lord Is with You
Nine months later (December 25) we will celebrate Christmas. Today we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord Jesus in the womb of Mary. He is like a seed planted in the good soil of the love and care of Mother Mary. In other words, God and Mary become one.
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” This greeting is no longer a greeting or a wish from the Archangel Gabriel. It is a reality. God is with(in) Mary. We should be joyful and grateful for the initial love of God for our humanity today. And we thank God for the openness and courage of Mary who said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
When/how can we have God with(in) us? – When we do the Will of God, God is with us. It is like when you love someone, you want to do everything to make sure s/he is healthy, happy and holy. You submit your will to her/his will, including dying for that person.
“What is the Will of God?” you might ask. The Will of God is my will minus (-) my ego. The Will of God is to receive God’s Grace, to share God’s Grace, and to love others as yourself. God’s Will is for us to be great. Mary and Joseph did it. All saints did it. We are called to do the same. When we have the “be-attitude” of Mary, we have God with us. When God is with us, we have no fear. God says, “(Your Name), the Lord be with you” (3 times in Mass).
Question: Is it easy for you to do the Will of God everyday?