June 26, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

As we continue to maneuver through challenging times in our nation and the world, I thought it would be of value to offer you some words of encouragement based on our faith.

With each passing day, we are confronted with higher prices at every corner. For example, gas prices have impacted every one of us in unprecedented ways, making life more difficult for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.  Just the other day, I had a first-hand experience of this impact when driving from our parish to the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia for the funeral of a dear friend – a young Navy officer who died tragically of cancer.  As I stopped at the gas stations in three different states, various people have approached me to share their anxiety, and frustration, over the rising gas prices.  I not only felt their pain in my heart, but also in my wallet.  It is, without a doubt, that inflation is causing everyone stress.

As a nation, we seem to be “turning the corner” as far as the pandemic is concerned, but now we are confronted with a host of other problems that are no less threatening and disheartening. I am thinking not only about these rising costs, but also about the constant violence and deadly mass shootings that plague our cities; the incendiary political blame games that keep dividing our nation further on the issues of abortion, gender theories, gun control, religious freedom, foreign policy, border security, etc; and the destructive cancel culture that has led to so much intolerance, fear, mental health and even death. The negative effects of all these issues can be seen everywhere. At times, they even project a sense of powerlessness and despair. “When is it going to end,” many people ask. I find myself asking these same questions over and over, even in my prayers.

Nevertheless, I am a firm believer. I believe that God never abandons us. He never leaves us alone in our suffering. In Him, we find meaning and purpose in all things, including the problems that we face each day. As the psalmist sings on this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices. My body, too, abides in confidence, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever. You are my inheritance!” (Psalm 16). How reassuring it would be to be able to repeat these words and make them our own in prayer these days!

I want to encourage you to stay “laser-focused” on the Lord as the One who walks with us; who is always by our side; who knows and supplies all our needs.  We just need to be patient and wait for His time. It will come, as it has always been in our history. Things will get better. I know you’re tired. I am too. But hang in there! Jesus has sustained us through all this and he is still sustaining us. He is there for us; we must be there for one another. We must never lose faith and we must do our best to lift the spirit of others. If there’s ever a time the enemy would love to divide us, it’s now, but we don’t have to succumb to his schemes. More than ever, God needs to be at the center of our lives. Contrary to what many are pushing for in our increasingly secularized society, God needs to be more present in every aspect of our lives, including the solutions that we are seeking for all problems.

Jesus never promised that we wouldn’t have any hard times or difficult situations to go through, but He did promise that He would walk with us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Another Scripture that helps me stay focused during these times is: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

And so, brothers and sisters, hope in the Lord, and take heart! Remember that the darkest time is when the light of the Gospel is brightest! It might seem to you like a “little light,” but what a difference it can make! May these words of assurances inspire all of us to get through these challenging times together…

Faithfully yours in Christ!

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham