October 15, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the love of our Lord as we gather on this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our readings today beautifully illustrate the invitation God extends to all: a lavish feast representing the eternal banquet in heaven. This grand image finds its resonance in our own Eucharistic celebrations – a sublime invitation offered to us regularly.

However, a divine invitation of this magnitude demands a heartfelt response. It prompts reflection: How do we answer this call? Observing our parish community, it’s evident that while many are deeply engrossed in their faith, others remain distant, treating their religious identity as mere tradition rather than a vibrant, living relationship with Christ. The reality that many baptized Catholics drift away or adhere to their faith only superficially signals a need for renewed catechesis on the profound gift of the Eucharist.

Our Church teaches that Catholics are obliged to go to Mass every Sunday and obligatory feast days, “unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (or bishop) (Code of Canon Law, c. 1247). Yet, sadly, a majority of baptized Catholics do not observe this, nor seem to practice their faith in any visible form today. Studies after studies have found that there is a serious decline in Church participation and membership across the board. This beckons us to ask whether people understand the greatness of God’s generous invitation.

For those of us who attend Mass, we must probe deeper: Are we fully present, in mind, body, and spirit? External actions, such as the way we dress or our punctuality, offer insights into our internal disposition. A hurried entrance or an early exit, casual attire, and using the church more as a meeting point than a sacred space, might indicate a lack of understanding or appreciation of the Mass’s significance.

Beyond these externalities, what of our internal disposition? The disconnect between one’s proclaimed faith and daily actions is a concern. A vibrant faith life should permeate every aspect of our existence, ensuring that our actions and interactions consistently mirror Christ’s teachings. Are our hearts truly with God? Do our actions, beyond Sunday Mass, reflect our faith? Let’s remember, as psychologists often say: all behavior communicates. Our external actions often mirror our internal dispositions. Are we truly clothed in gratitude, love, and righteous deeds?

During my recent pilgrimage to Rome, I was deeply moved by the reverence at a Papal Mass. The congregants, in their finest attire and utmost decorum, showcased a deep respect not just for the Holy Father but for the divine celebration. Should we not exhibit even greater reverence when encountering Christ Himself in the Eucharist?

Yet, our faith doesn’t exist in isolation. As Pope Francis says, the devastating conflict between Hamas and Israelis serves as a poignant reminder of our world’s suffering. As we reflect on our personal spiritual journey, let’s also fervently join him to pray for peace, understanding that true solutions emerge from dialogue and mutual respect.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is a call for an authentic reawakening. May we always be properly attired, in both heart and appearance, ready for the great banquet the Lord offers us.

In Christ’s peace and love,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham