January 21, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we gather for the Holy Eucharist on this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Holy Scripture readings at Mass present a tapestry of divine calls and human responses. These ancient texts are not merely historical accounts; they are living words that speak directly to our lives today, inviting us to consider the urgency and immediacy of God’s call and our response to it.

In the Book of Jonah, we meet a prophet who initially fled from God’s call, only to ultimately embrace it and witness the transformative power of God’s word in Nineveh (cf. Jonah 3:1-5, 10). In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul urges us to live in the present moment, recognizing the fleeting nature of this world and the eternal significance of our actions (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus calls His first disciples, who immediately leave their nets to follow Him (cf. Mark 1:14-20). These powerful narratives all convey a singular, transformative message: God calls us to conversion and a renewed way of life.

This month of January, dedicated to the sanctity of human life, deepens our reflection on these Scriptures. We are reminded of the sacredness of every human life, from natural conception to natural death. Being pro-life is not a mere moral obligation but a profound expression of our Christian faith, reflecting God’s boundless love and the inherent dignity He bestows upon each person. It is a concrete call to action, a commitment to safeguard the vulnerable and voiceless, especially the unborn.

On a personal note, this weekend holds a deeply emotional significance for me. This past Friday, January 19, marked the third anniversary of my father’s passing. In Vietnamese culture, this anniversary is traditionally seen as the end of the mourning period. It’s a time when life’s normal rhythms are supposed to resume. Yet, for me, the passage of time hasn’t brought closure. The loss remains fresh, like a wound that has not fully healed, challenging the notion that time heals all wounds.

Coincidentally, this year the Annual March for Life in Washington, DC, falls on the same day as my father’s anniversary. As a staunch advocate for life, my father always found great consolation in that event, rejoicing to see hundreds of thousands of Christians, Catholics, and others converge in the nation’s capital to affirm the sanctity of life. He prayed countless Rosaries for the unborn children and for all mothers and fathers in difficulty, with the hope that society will one day become civilized enough to embrace all life. His pro-life stance was not just a matter of faith but a deeply personal conviction. As I recall his memory, I find solace in continuing his legacy, standing for the protection and dignity of all human life.

I invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in recommitting to this vital cause. Let us be grateful for every life and strive to build a culture of life and love where everyone is accepted, welcomed, and protected. This commitment means advocating for the unborn and caring for the marginalized, vulnerable, and those in need of our love and support.

May the Word of God this Sunday inspire us all to respond to the divine call with the same promptness as the Apostles showed. May this month’s focus on the sanctity of human life serve as a constant reminder to pray for the protection of life, particularly that of the unborn in the womb. And when you pray for the defenders of life that you may know, I ask that you also remember to include my dad, John Thu Pham. Thank you!

In Christ’s love,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham