Grace Always Comes First – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 1, 2020

“Do you ever ask yourself what you’re grateful for? It’s a practice that’s done all over the world as gratitude and it’s amazing thing that in any instance of your life you can always find something to be grateful for if you’re willing to look. What are you grateful for? That’s how we should start our spiritual life is gratitude. It’s gratefulness because God’s grace always comes first. It’s a principle. It’s the primacy of Grace that we believe as Catholics that God’s grace always comes first before everything. That means we don’t deserve God’s grace by what we do in our life, but that his grace always comes first that everything we’re given, everything you have been given, everything maybe you think you have earned has been a gift hasn’t it? Maybe you participated in that gift, but it always was a gift and if we look at our lives like that then we can receive the grace of God more fully in our life. Oftentimes in our lives we think of what we earn. You put in the work, this comes out. I worked this many hours, I get paid this much. Everything in our lives is kind of like that, but not God’s love. God’s love is not like that, but we fall into don’t we? We fall into, ‘Well I’ve sinned this much or I’ve done this, God could never love me.’ But that’s not God’s love that you’re saying.

In our second reading today it said, ‘What can keep us from the love of God?’ Really nothing, not death, not life, not principalities, not powers, nothing can keep us from the love of God, but the question is, will you receive it? Nothing will keep us from it, but are you willing to receive it? That’s only if you know what are you looking for in your life? What will satisfy you? Have you ever asked that question? What am I searching for in my life? What is the longing in my heart that if I had it I would be satisfied? We’ve all done it. We’ve all searched for it. Maybe it was that perfect restaurant. Maybe you’re a foodie person, you know you travel around to different restaurants. Yeah it’s satisfying for that moment, but it doesn’t really stay with you. Maybe it’s the net phone, the next gadget, but then the next year another one comes out, so it never really stays does it? Maybe it’s this boyfriend or girlfriend, this person who will satisfy me maybe for that moment, but it doesn’t last does it?

In the first reading today, God says, ‘Come drink of the water and it will satisfy you.’ And what he’s saying is, ‘Come to me. Share in my life and it will satisfy you.’ but not only come, we all come to Mass. We come to the Lord, but are we willing to accept his love? That’s the thing. In today’s Gospel it’s the famous Gospel of the five…five loaves and two fish. (I almost got those wrong) The five loaves and two fish and it’s the amazing story of the multitude of that. What does it mean for us? That means again, start with gratitude and then come to the Lord with whatever you have with open arms to receive it. That’s the key. Come with what you have because in the Gospel the apostles said, ‘Well why don’t we disperse them so they can do it themselves, get the food themselves?’ And then Jesus said, ‘Why don’t you feed them?’ and he said, ‘This is all we have, just five loaves and two fish.’ but look at what he did with five loaves and two fish.

Now what is your five loaves and two fish? Everything in the Church started small. St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, he got a call from God to build his church. One person, so he went and he started building and look at what it is today. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, he started the spiritual exercises. He received the call of God and he preached it. He went forward and look at what we have today.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta who left when she was 30 to care for the poor in the slums of Calcutta. If someone said to her, ‘What’s it going to make a difference? It’s just you, one person.’ but look at it today, everyone knows who Mother Teresa is not only Catholics. She made a huge difference, but that is the life of a Christian, a life of Christ that mustard seed that’s so small that if you bring it to the Lord it would grow to such great things, but are you willing to bring what you have? We have that chance every time we come to Mass. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a point in the Mass, maybe we don’t do it now, but we send the baskets around and yes, we collect the offerings and it’s brought before the altar, but in that moment you put in what you have. Here in this culture we put in money. In other cultures they bring food, breads, lambs, actually animals forward and after that the priest says, ‘Let my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God.’ So really we’re bringing our five loaves and two (fish) every single Mass to the altar and you’re supposed to bring it spiritually. You’re supposed to participate in that, whatever you have. Maybe it’s, ‘I’m struggling right now, maybe my marriage and I need to have a difficult conversation. Give me the courage to do it’. Bring that to the Lord. Maybe it’s, ‘I can’t see the future ahead of me, I’m fearful’. Bring that to the Lord. See what he does with it, but that’s our faith that we bring it to the altar, the one sacrifice of Christ and then we receive Christ within us, the communion that brings us closer to God, but to everyone. So as you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you in the Eucharist, let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and the courage to bring your five loaves and two (fish) of your life to the altar and let us leave that sacrifice to him and receive the love of God. Amen.”