July 17, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters,

This weekend, we celebrate our parish’s Patronal Feast. It is a day that many of us have been looking forward to for a long time. This year’s patronal feast seems to be anticipated even more eagerly than in other years, partly because our parish has not been able to celebrate it in a solemn and festive way as we used to do before the pandemic. Now that life has returned almost to pre-pandemic normalcy, many seem excited about “pulling out all the stops” to honor our Patroness, who is beloved and revered by all the ethnic communities that make up our great parish family.  For me, this week is also significant because it marks my “First Anniversary” of being your pastor. I thought it would be a fitting occasion to invite my family and other
important persons in my priestly life to come and see “my spiritual family” at one of its finest moments.

There has been much to prepare for this special occasion. In addition to the normal tasks of planning the liturgy and programs, meeting with leaders and ministers, coordinating the efforts of all groups, designing programs, and preparing facilities, I have also been thinking about how to make our special guests feel welcome. Perhaps you can recall the joy of last year’s celebration when we were privileged to welcome His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States who came to preside at our patronal feast. This year, we are blessed with the presence of our own diocesan shepherd, His Excellency Bishop Robert Brennan who presided at the 8AM Mass on the feast day, and His Excellency Bishop emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio who presides at the 5PM Solemn Mass. We are also honored to have His Excellency, Bishop Raymond Chapetto, native son of our parish who presides at the 5PM Sunday Mass. Many guest priests, most of whom have been an integral part of our parish community over the years have also been invited. When I started reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel story of Martha and Mary, I couldn’t help but think of the hospitality that we are hoping to extend to these distinguished visitors this weekend.

When we hear the story of Martha and Mary, I’m guessing that many of us think about people—usually other people—in our families or among our friends. Even if you’ve never said it yourself, odds are that you have heard the comment that someone is “such a Martha”—as if that is a bad thing. Jesus never tells Martha that she shouldn’t fuss over company or prepare a wonderful meal. There is in fact a lot to admire about Martha. It was Martha who “welcomed Jesus into her home” (Lk 10:38) in the first place. She was clearly eager to spend time with Jesus and to show her esteem with a meal in his honor. Meanwhile, Mary’s idea of hospitality was a bit different. While Martha was engaged in preparations, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.” Mary gave Jesus and his words her full attention. For me, the two sisters represent two complementary aspects of hospitality, both of which are important, even essential. Yes, extending welcome requires preparation. Jesus never suggests that this work is unimportant or unnecessary. But the “better part” of hospitality is giving to guests one’s full attention—being with them, listening to their stories, learning about their experiences, and savoring their presence.

The story gives us insight not only on how to welcome guests into our home but also on how we are to welcome Christ into our lives and into our communities, whether at the liturgy or in the faces of those in need. As one who spends many hours and much energy creating a welcoming environment for thousands of people in our big community every week, I find this message particularly enlightening. Too often our service to others causes us to be far more focused on what we are doing than on the presence of Christ among us. We forget that personal relationship is what it should be all about. In busily preparing, whether for the guest to our home, the person we are serving, or the God that we worship, we need to keep in mind that the Lord of the work is far more important than the work of the Lord. Good works are good, but the reason for our good works is not so much achievement as a personal relationship.

I pray that this celebration of our parish feast gives us all an opportunity to offer an authentic welcome to one another, to our distinguished guests, and to the Lord, our most important guest, that fosters a personal relationship beyond the external hospitality and festivities.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham