April 14, 2024

Dear friends in Christ,

As we gather this third Sunday of Easter, I am reminded of a true story from Ripley’s Believe It or Not about a judge in Yugoslavia who was pronounced dead after an unfortunate accident, only to wake up in a funeral home! Imagine the shock of his wife, neighbors, and the night watchman when he began making calls or showing up at their doors, very much alive. This bizarre yet humorous tale echoes today’s Gospel reading from Luke 24:35-48, where Jesus, too, had to convince His disciples He was not a ghost but alive, resurrected in His glorified body.

This past week, I had an enriching experience that mirrored the challenge of belief and witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. I rode in a Lyft taxi, driven by a young, inquisitive Muslim. Our conversation veered into a deep discussion about faith, specifically about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He questioned how Christians could be so certain that Christ indeed rose from the dead and that it wasn’t merely someone’s imagination. I shared with him that while there is a lot of compelling empirical evidence pointing towards the Resurrection, such as the famous Shroud of Turin, the Relics of the Passion, and historical accounts outside the Bible about the early Church’s transformation by their belief in Christ being alive, the heart of this belief is still a matter of faith that transcends scientific evidence.

The Apostles themselves gave the most potent witness to the Resurrection, even unto death. They could not have willingly faced martyrdom for a mere idea or hallucination but did so for a real, living Person whom they experienced as being alive. Although I am not sure if our animated discussion turned my driver into a believer, it was gratifying to share with him what I believe, bringing him closer to understanding the Christian perspective.

Today’s Gospel profoundly illustrates the reality of Christ’s Resurrection. By inviting His apostles to look closely at Him, touch Him, and observe Him eating, the risen Jesus dispelled any notion that they were witnessing a ghost. He demonstrated that He was as real and alive. This authentic encounter is what transformed the apostles into fervent witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection. Their faith was deeply rooted in the personal and communal experience of Jesus as the living Lord.

This brings us to the crux of today’s Gospel message and our own lives as followers of Christ. Today, the risen Jesus still invites us to a personal and communal encounter with Him, especially in the Holy Eucharist, which is not merely an abstract idea or tradition but a vibrant, transformative experience of His living presence.

Just as the Yugoslavian judge’s return to life was met with disbelief, so too we must bridge the gap of skepticism with the truth and vitality of Jesus Christ. Our strongest testimony is not found in words alone but in the transformative power of our encounters with the Risen Lord. When the joy, love, and peace of Christ are evident in our lives, even the most skeptical can become curious about the source of our hope.

Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to embody and share the joy of the living Christ. As Easter people, may our lives reflect the hope and renewal found in Christ’s Resurrection.

Peace and blessings,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

April 7, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

ALLELUIA! Today, we gather to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, the Octave Day of Easter, a time when the Church continues to revel in the joy of the Resurrection. This day is a profound reminder that the Paschal mystery, which culminates in Christ’s triumph over death, is so monumental that it transcends a single day of celebration, inviting us into a week-long meditation on its significance.

Instituted by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, Divine Mercy Sunday draws from the revelations to St. Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun who, in the 1930s, was chosen by Christ to relay His message of mercy towards humanity. This message, foundational to today’s celebration, serves as a beacon of hope for all.

St. Faustina’s visions of the two rays of light, symbolizing blood and water from Christ’s Sacred Heart, remind us of the Eucharist and Baptism’s gifts, underscoring the ongoing act of Divine Mercy that washes over and renews humanity across all generations. It is here, in her encounters with Jesus, that we are invited to frequently pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This prayer is not just a devotion but a profound way to contemplate the mystery of God’s mercy in our own lives.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31), where the Risen Lord imparts peace and the Holy Spirit to His disciples, we see a direct call to become vessels of His boundless mercy. This narrative, especially Jesus’ compassionate response to Thomas’ doubt, highlights mercy’s role in transforming uncertainty into faith.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, eloquently states, “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” (n. 114). This directive inspires us to live out the message of Divine Mercy not only within our church but in our broader community.

In this spirit, I wish to highlight the Divine Mercy Prayer Group in our parish. Meeting weekly to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Spanish around stunningly decorated images of The Divine Mercy, the group inspires us not only by their beautiful prayers, but also by their ministry that exemplify the mercy of Christ in action, from visiting the sick to engaging in volunteer and charitable works. I wholeheartedly endorse and recommend this prayer group to everyone.

On this special day, I am also personally reminded of the powerful example set by my own parents for many years. The image of my mom and dad, united in prayer, faithfully reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet each day at 3PM in the tranquility of our home, is an indelible memory. Their unwavering commitment to this prayer has deeply influenced my faith journey.

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, let the words “Jesus, I trust in you!” inspire us to embrace and share God’s mercy within our families, workplaces, and communities, becoming beacons of hope and carriers of His unfailing love.

In Christ’s merciful love,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

March 31, 2024

Dear parish family and friends in Christ,

“Christ is Risen! Alleluia!” The Easter message of joy echoes through the whole world proclaiming Our Lord’s ultimate victory of light over darkness, grace over sin, and life over death. It is the message upon which our faith rests and to which we anchor our own hope of victory with him.

There is something quite unique about the Easter liturgies, namely, the reality of movement—the joyful movement of going forth—that shows the Church at her best: when she goes forth! We see this in the Gospel for Easter Sunday with Peter and John running towards the empty tomb, after Mary Magdalene had run to them with the news that the Lord’s body was no longer there! We read again, in the same Gospel, that Mary Magdalene encounters the Risen Lord outside the tomb after Peter and John had hurried off and she, in turn, runs to tell the other disciples: “I have seen the Lord!” Mary Magdalene was not only the first disciple to see the Risen Lord; she was also a missionary disciple—a running disciple—who could not contain within herself the Good News.  She portrays, in a real way, the missionary image of the Church that goes forth with a joyful message to share!

One of the most hopeful and meaningful rituals of our faith occurs during the Easter Vigil Mass when the new Paschal Candle is brought into the darkened church. The simple light is held high and shines brightly in the darkness as a reminder that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. As people in the assembly light their small candles from the Easter Candle, one by one, the whole church becomes radiant with light, and a visible sign of hope begins radiating from each person holding his or her lighted candles. The movement of the Paschal Candle up the aisle amidst the exultant proclamations “Christ our Light” echoing through the gradually brightened church is a uniquely powerful visual experience of hope.   

In these challenging times, marked by global unrest and division, the message of Easter becomes even more pertinent. We are beckoned to be beacons of hope, to carry the light of Christ into the world’s darkness. The ongoing conflicts in many parts of the world, societal divisions at all levels in our own nation, and threats of violence everywhere underscore the urgency of our mission to share the Gospel’s hope. Our task, as Christians, to go forth and to proclaim Christ, the reasons for our hope symbolized by that light at the Easter Vigil—becomes even more imperative in this holy season.

St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless, and our faith too is in vain” (Cf. 1 Cor 15:14). The Resurrection is thus the foundation and cornerstone of our faith. On Easter we are called to live as people deeply touched by the Lord’s Resurrection, those who cannot contain the Good News within themselves, and those who must run out to proclaim it.  Like Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and all the disciples of Christ, may our encounter with the Risen Lord on our journey of faith touch us deeply and transform us into eager witnesses as well. May we become what St. Augustine referred to as an “Easter People”, a people changed into “running disciples”.

I extend heartfelt thanks to our priests, deacons, staff, volunteers, and all parish members for your dedication and spirit of service throughout Lent and the Holy Week. Your “going forth” has certainly borne much fruit in the spiritual renewal of countless people who came through our doors.  I also want to welcome and congratulate all the newly baptized and confirmed members of our parish. I pray that your zeal and enthusiastic commitment to faith will inspire us to be “running disciples” as well.

May the joy of the Resurrection fill your hearts and homes this Easter and always.

With warmest Easter wishes,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

March 24, 2024

Dear Parish Family,

As we approach Holy Week, our thoughts turn to the contrast between earthly and divine definitions of kingship and victory. The Greek author Plutarch describes how kings are supposed to enter a city. He writes about a Roman general, Aemilius Paulus, who defeated the Macedonians. When Aemilius returned to Rome, his triumphal parade was extravagant and lasted three days. The first day showcased all the artwork his army had plundered. The second day displayed the captured weapons, and the third day featured 250 oxen with gold-covered horns, leading a parade that included the defeated king of Macedonia and his family. Aemilius himself rode in a magnificent chariot, wearing a purple robe interwoven with gold, and was accompanied by a large choir singing hymns, praising his victories (cf. http://www.sigurdgrindheim.com/sermons/king.html).

In stark contrast, we contemplate Jesus entering Jerusalem. Instead of a display of might and wealth, He chose simplicity and humility, riding on a simple donkey, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy. Kings rode donkeys in times of peace. This act was not just a sign of peace, as opposed to war, but a clear declaration of His kingship—one rooted in humility, peace, and service. It was a moment that redefined the meaning of victory and leadership.

This Holy Week, we are called to immerse ourselves in the spirit of humility, peace, and service exemplified by Jesus. His journey from Palm Sunday through His crucifixion was not marked by symbols of earthly power but by acts of love and sacrifice. The palms we receive on Palm Sunday are not mere symbols of His triumphant entry but reminders of our vocation to live out these virtues in our daily lives.

Holy Thursday deepens our journey into humility and service, inviting us to reflect on the Last Supper, where Jesus established the Eucharist and demonstrated servant leadership by washing the disciples’ feet. This night challenges us to embrace and embody the profound love and humility Christ showed us. Good Friday calls us to a somber reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice, inviting us to venerate the cross and meditate on the depth of His love and the weight of our sins. It’s a day that emphasizes fasting, penance, and gratitude for the gift of salvation obtained through Jesus’ suffering and death. Holy Saturday, a day of quiet anticipation, transitions into the Easter Vigil, where the light of the paschal candle dispels the darkness, symbolizing Christ’s victory over death. This service, enriched with Scripture, baptismal renewal, and the exultant singing of Alleluia, invites us into the joy and hope of the Resurrection. Easter Sunday culminates our Holy Week journey with a jubilant celebration of the Resurrection. The church, filled with flowers and Alleluias, calls us to rejoice in the new life and victory of Christ. It is a day that affirms our faith in the promise of our own resurrection and new life in Him.

March 17, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we begin the Fifth Week of Lent, the Scriptures speak to us with profound depth and urgency. This Sunday, Jesus imparts to us a powerful truth: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Jn 12:20-33)

This statement embodies the essence of our Lenten pilgrimage—a journey of self-emptying, surrender, and the promise of ultimate glory in Christ. Allow me to illustrate this truth with a poignant story.

In a stormy night in Philadelphia, a weary couple sought refuge in a small hotel. Despite the hotel’s full capacity due to town conventions, the manager displayed remarkable compassion. He offered them his own room for the night, prioritizing their comfort over his own.

This act of selflessness didn’t go unnoticed. Two years later, the manager received an unexpected letter from the same couple, William Waldorf Astor and his wife. Enclosed was a round-trip ticket to New York and an invitation to visit them. Upon arrival, Mr. Astor revealed a magnificent building—the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He offered the manager the position of manager of this prestigious hotel, as a sign of his appreciation for the man’s kindness and selflessness.

This story, steeped in history, serves as a testament to the truth of Jesus’ words above: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. The manager’s selflessness and sacrifice blossomed into an opportunity of a lifetime, illustrating that true greatness often arises from acts of genuine, humble service to others.

As we reflect on this story and Jesus’ powerful words, let us ponder: What sacrifices are we willing to make for the sake of others? Are we ready to let go of our own comfort and convenience to further God’s kingdom here on earth?

The Gospel metaphor of the “dying grain of wheat” speaks to the core of our Lenten journey. Jesus, through His suffering and death, brings life and liberation to a sinful world. Similarly, when we “die” to our selfishness and “rise” to new life in Christ by embracing crosses, uniting our struggles with His, we participate in His redemptive work.

Think of Mother Cabrini, whose noble sacrifices in her tireless service to the marginalized and forgotten in our own New York City still captivate the world. The fascinating movie about Mother Cabrini, currently shown in US theaters, beautifully portrays her life and mission, serving as a powerful testament to the truth of Christ’s teaching.

As we approach the passion and resurrection of our Lord, let us heed His words: “Whoever serves me must follow me… My Father will honor the one who serves me.” May our Lenten sacrifices bear witness to the spirit of selfless love that Christ calls us to embrace.

With my personal blessing,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

March 10, 2024

Dear beloved parishioners,

As we gather on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Lætare Sunday, our hearts are called to rejoice amidst our journey of penance and reflection. Lætare, meaning “Rejoice,” signifies a moment of light within our Lenten pilgrimage, reminding us of the joy and hope that the Resurrection of Christ brings. The priest’s use of the rose-colored vestment today symbolizes the light of Christ that penetrates the somberness of Lent with the promise of Easter.

In our readings at Mass today, we are enveloped in the profound message of hope and divine mercy, a theme deeply resonant throughout the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of our Church. This message is beautifully encapsulated in Pope Francis’ “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”), where he describes God’s covenant with humanity as a “history of mercy.” This narrative of divine compassion and tenderness is a love story that culminates in the Incarnation of God’s Son, Jesus Christ—Mercy Incarnate.

The Holy Father reminds us that Lent is a “privileged moment” to live more intensely through the experience of God’s mercy. It is a call to each of us to encounter Jesus, who extends His mercy, inviting us to embrace it fully. In the words of St. Benedict, a spiritual giant of our Church, this season of Lent urges us to do “something extra,” a gesture beyond our routine sacrifices, that opens our hearts to receive this divine mercy.

The Lenten theme of repentance, centered on the conversion of the heart, cannot be explored without a profound reflection on the nature of our hearts themselves. Conversion entails more than a superficial change; it is about allowing our very hearts to be transformed by God’s mercy. When faced with hurt or misunderstanding, for example. our instinct may be to react or to harbor resentment. Yet, what if we chose instead to let that hurt pierce us, leading us to a deeper understanding and to the merciful Presence of God? It is in suffering through the hurt, acknowledging it, and then seeking reconciliation, that we truly experience God’s mercy.

Thus, we must pay special attention to our hearts. Let the challenges and the hurts we encounter not lead us to reactivity, but to a deeper conversion—a transformation fueled by mercy and humility. These virtues are potent remedies against any inclination away from God’s love and the fullness of life He offers. Let us also contemplate the mercy of God, not only as an abstract concept but as a tangible reality manifested in the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. These sacred encounters provide a profound experience of God’s forgiveness and love, drawing us closer to Him and to one another.

Therefore, I invite each of you to ponder: What “extra” can we do this Lent to open our hearts more fully to God’s mercy? How can we embody this mercy in our actions, our thoughts, and our interactions with others?

On a personal note, as you read this letter, I am in Phoenix, Arizona, giving a Retreat to a parish on the theme of God’s mercy, following an invitation from the Vicar for Priests of that diocese, a former colleague of mine in Rome. Subsequently, I will travel to Orange, California, to lead another Retreat for priests and lay leaders of that diocese on the same theme, at the invitation of the Bishop of Orange. Be assured that you are in my prayers during these missions.

I encourage you to save the date for our own Parish Retreat next Saturday with Father Joseph Gibino, Vicar of Evangelization and Catechesis of our diocese. This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community and deepen our understanding and experience of God’s merciful love.

With heartfelt prayers and blessings,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

March 3, 2024

Dear friends in Christ,

As we mark the midpoint of Lent during this third week, we are reminded that our journey of penance and reflection is far from over. Lent challenges us to break free from our spiritual routines, urging us to embrace change and to seek a renewal that propels us towards the ultimate goal of perfection in the image of our heavenly Father, as urged by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48).

In this season of transformation, the Church wisely guides us towards prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, three pillars that support our quest for spiritual perfection. Yet, while prayer and fasting are embraced with enthusiasm, almsgiving frequently remains the less trodden path, often overlooked and underappreciated. This omission is not for lack of need or opportunity but perhaps stems from a misunderstanding of its value and the joy it brings.

Almsgiving, fundamentally, is the act of giving to those in need, whether through monetary donations, food, or other goods. This practice is a profound exercise in detachment, reminding us that material wealth is not our ultimate goal. More than a personal discipline, almsgiving is inherently social, emphasizing the relational nature of our faith. It is an expression of love, a visible sign of our commitment to the welfare of others, mirroring the self-giving love of God. In doing so, we live out the commandment that what we do for the least among us, we do for Christ Himself (Mt 25:40).

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent, John 2:13-25, presents Jesus cleansing the Temple, an act of zeal for His Father’s house. Jesus’s actions disrupt the routine, challenging the status quo and calling for a return to authentic worship and devotion. This passage invites us to consider our own practices of faith, including almsgiving, as expressions of our zeal for God’s house. Just as Jesus sought to purify the temple, we are called to purify our intentions and actions, making them true offerings to God.

Choosing whom to support through almsgiving can seem daunting given the myriad of worthy causes. Yet, it is precisely in making these choices that we can find a deeper connection to our faith and the world around us. By aligning our almsgiving with our passions and concerns, we can make meaningful contributions. My personal commitment to the Annual Catholic Appeal is driven by a deep appreciation for its impact on our local Church’s mission, including support for parishes, seminaries, schools, and outreach programs. Having benefitted from the Church’s generosity myself, I understand firsthand how such support can change lives. This experience fuels my passion for giving, making my contributions not just acts of charity, but integral parts of my spiritual practice.

Almsgiving, therefore, is more than a duty; it is an opportunity to draw closer to Christ, who showed a special preference for the poor. It is a witness to fraternal charity and a work of justice pleasing to God, as highlighted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2462). Let us embrace almsgiving with renewed vigor, allowing it to transform us and bring us closer to the perfection to which we are called.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us seek to disrupt our routines, inspired by the Gospel’s call to authentic worship and devotion. May our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to follow more closely in the footsteps of Christ, who has shown us the path to true perfection.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 25, 2024

 

Dear faithful parishioners,

As we gather on this Second Sunday of Lent, our hearts and minds are immersed in the profound mystery and wonder of our faith, illuminated by the Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This sacred event is not merely a historical account; it is a living testament to the hope and encouragement available to us, especially during trials, sufferings, or moments of weakened faith.

In the Gospel, we witness the extraordinary transformation of Jesus on Mount Tabor, where He shines with divine glory. This Christophany, revealing Jesus as the Son of God, surpasses even the greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah. It is a foretaste of the heavenly glory that awaits those who faithfully follow God’s will, reminding us that our current struggles are part of a larger, divine narrative.

Reflecting on this narrative of transfiguration of Jesus, I am reminded of a touching story shared by Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International (www.heartbeatinternational.org). It’s about a woman, amidst the turmoil of deciding on an abortion, who experiences a profound revelation. During an ultrasound, she sees her unborn child, perfectly shaped and moving in her womb, and, in a miraculous moment, reaches out to touch the monitor. Mirroring her gesture, her baby stretches out its arm, their hands meeting across the screen. This powerful moment of connection transforms her decision, leading her to choose life. She kept the baby.

This story beautifully parallels the transformative power of the Transfiguration. Just as the woman glimpsed the mystery of life within her, the Apostles glimpsed the divine mystery of Jesus. These moments of revelation open our eyes to a reality much larger than our everyday existence, offering a transformative perspective that reshapes our understanding and actions.

Our sacramental life in the Church mirrors this transformative journey. Each Sacrament is an encounter with the divine mystery that profoundly changes us. In Baptism, we become children of God; in Confirmation, temples of the Holy Spirit; in Reconciliation, we are restored to righteousness. These are not just rituals; they are personal transfigurations that shape and mold our spiritual journey, akin to the Apostles’ experience on Mount Tabor.

In the Holy Mass, through the miracle of transubstantiation, we encounter the living Christ. The transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus is an invitation for us to touch this mystery with our faith. Each Mass is a source of strength, reflecting the way Jesus’ Transfiguration fortified the Apostles.

Let us, in times of doubt or despair, remember this profound connection. The woman’s touch on the ultrasound screen was a touch of a greater mystery, much like our touch of the divine in the Sacraments. This touch has the power to transform our understanding, our actions, and our entire life’s journey.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us remain focused on Jesus. His Transfiguration serves as a beacon of hope and strength, reminding us of the glorious transformation that awaits us. Let us embrace every sacramental encounter with open hearts, allowing these experiences to transform, encourage, and strengthen us, especially in moments of darkness and fear.

In Christ’s transformative love,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 18, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we embark on the first week of Lent, we enter a profound 40-day journey coinciding with the springtime – a season of rebirth and new life that we witness in nature around us. This sacred time invites us to deepen our spiritual growth, renew our relationship with God, and progress in our path to holiness.

Like the catechumens preparing for their initiation into the Church at Easter, we are all called to undergo a conversion, examining our lives and sins in the light of God’s grace. As Catholics, we are called to pray, fast and abstain, but it’s crucial to reflect on how these practices enhance our prayer life, generosity, and sanctity. Our Lenten observances should lead to true conversion and a richer life in Christ; otherwise, they risk becoming mere rituals.

In fact, Lent isn’t solely about penitential practices; it’s also a season of joyful spiritual feasting. I’d like to share with you some inspiring thoughts from William Arthur Ward that I found particularly meaningful:

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.

Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.

Fast from instant gratifications; feast on self-denial.

Fast from worry; feast on divine providence.

And finally, fast from sin; feast on the abundance of God’s mercy!

Pope Francis, in his message for Lent, reminds us that this season is a time to refocus on God’s mercy. Lent leads to the triumph of mercy, liberating us from what diminishes our worth as God’s children. This understanding of Lent can be truly freeing, helping us shed attitudes and behaviors that stifle our spiritual growth and realigning us towards those that foster our development into the individuals God envisions us to be – people of the Resurrection.

As your pastor, I carry you and your family in my daily prayers, especially at the Altar. May this Lenten season be a time of transformation for you all.

Faithfully yours,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 11, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The holy season of Lent will begin with this week’s Ash Wednesday celebration. This season offers us, as Catholics, an opportunity to engage in the meaningful tradition of self-denial. It is a time when we consciously choose to abstain from certain pleasures and habits, not merely as an act of discipline but as a profound gesture of aligning ourselves with the sacrificial spirit of Christ. This act of “giving up” serves multiple purposes: it teaches us self-control, redirects our focus from material pursuits to spiritual enrichment, and most importantly, signifies our repentance for our sins and our longing to walk more closely with Christ.

I am reminded of a poignant story about a father who encouraged his children to go beyond the usual practice of giving up sweets for Lent. He urged them to renounce a sinful habit instead. Halfway through Lent, he inquired about how they were doing with their Lenten promises. One son, who had vowed to stop fighting with his siblings, replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad—but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!”. This response, while endearing, reveals a partial understanding of the true essence of Lent. Lent is not just a temporary pause from sin; it’s about a profound and lasting conversion. It calls for a complete transformation of our lives to embody the ways of Christ, abandoning sin not just for a season but forever.

I’d like to think of Lent as a time to recognize and relinquish the control that certain behaviors or inclinations have over us. It’s about allowing God to take the reins of our lives. The concept of “detachment” is often discussed during this period. It implies that by being less occupied with worldly matters, we make more room for God in our lives. Apart from the traditional abstinence from meat on Fridays, Lent provides a chance to give up various other things: excessive television watching, compulsive gossiping, unhealthy eating habits, or any vice that impedes our spiritual growth, like laziness, procrastination, lack of passion or zeal, or the tendency to exert control or influence over others, etc. It’s about identifying our personal struggles and focusing our Lenten discipline on overcoming them.

Contrary to being solely about sacrifice, Lent is equally a time for positive transformation and growth. It can be about adopting better habits: responsible use of money and time, moderation in food and drink, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, enhancing personal organization, reducing internet usage or dependency on social media, or engaging in daily prayer and Scripture meditation. These practices are not only beneficial for our physical well-being but also immensely nourishing for our souls.

The austerity of Lent, however, does not preclude us from experiencing joy and celebration. It’s about pausing our relentless pursuit of pleasure and allowing ourselves to be surprised by joy in its purest form. When we experience these moments of happiness, we recognize them as gifts from God. Thus, Lent is not solely about renunciation; it’s equally about incorporating acts of goodness into our lives and the lives of others, aligning with the teachings of Jesus.

A significant aspect of Lent is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I encourage you to visit our parish or other churches to partake in Confession. Remember, God’s transformative work in our lives begins when we open our hearts to His grace. As St. Paul reminds us, “now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). Let us not delay in embracing this sacred opportunity.

Wishing you a Lenten season full of joy and renewal, I remain.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham