Listen To The Spirit – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 28, 2021

“There was a story of this priest and he was preaching a homily and his whole idea was that so many people hear things and then they share it with others. Have you ever used the phrase ‘I heard, I heard’ and fill in the blank? He said we should never use that phrase because oftentimes when people say, ‘I heard…’ it’s usually something negative. It’s always about gossip, things like that so he said definitively, ‘You should never use the word I heard because generally it’s quite negative and it will lead to gossip.’ So he went on with the Mass and it’s because communion time and the entrance song for preparing the gifts was I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.

Oftentimes there’s a lot of nuance in our world. We all know it, but in some ways we live in black and white, all or nothing thinking and in certain ways it’s a dualistic way of thinking. It’s easy. That’s why we fall into it. It’s easy to say that I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s easy to say that this is the way to go and that is completely wrong. It’s easy to say definitively that you should never use the phrase I heard. It’s easy, but in our world it’s not black and white. It’s not this or that. There’s a lot of nuance within it, but how do we sift out the nuance? How do we sift out and discern what is truly there?

In today’s first reading it shows us that God gives us our commandments, our laws. He gives it to his people and because he gives these laws to the Israelites then they will be outstanding people that others will see how great these people are. Laws are very good. They protect and the laws of God, natural law protects us as human beings. Think about the Ten Commandments. They are a set of laws. You shouldn’t do these things. You should do some and you shouldn’t do some so it is it’s very clear, but the goal of it is to keep us in right relationship with first God, others and ultimately ourselves. It’s always important to know the spirit of the laws that come with it. 

Now in the Gospel today the Pharisees and the scribes kind of rebuke Jesus and his disciples saying, ‘Why is it that your disciples do not follow the laws, the traditions of the Jewish people?’ It was always a tradition that you cleanse your hands, you clean all these things because if not it’s unclean, it’s wrong. What does Jesus say? He says that they’re hypocrites. He tells them that really it’s not the things outside that defile you, but the things from within that defile you and I think that could be really used for us in our world today. Oftentimes we are so focused on looking outside of ourselves for the problem, outside of ourselves for the answer, outside of ourselves to see what is there. We are afraid of everything outside of us, but in a lot of ways the culture forces us to do it. It steals our attention. Everything is always screaming at us isn’t it? Look at this! Look at this! Look at this! But Christ is calling us to look within and I think I’ve said this before, St. John Paul II said that the battle between good and evil isn’t outside of ourselves. The battle between good and evil is in between every human heart. That means you and me. The battle between good and evil is fought between every human heart and Christ is calling us to look within before we look out. 

I think I’ve used this phrase before too, but it’s a practice I try. I’m not always successful, but anytime you’re disturbed by any emotion, any disturbance in your life, stop. Quit looking outside and look within. Another way to say it is, ‘Stop and pray.’ Look within to see where the problem is. Christ is calling us to a deeper relationship with him so as to see things more clearly. The thing about us looking outside and trying to see the answers, how do we find the answers if we don’t see things clearly, if our own sinfulness is tainting the way we see the world? Christ calls us not to see on our own, but let Him see for us to look with faith to walk with faith and not by sight so as to use the grace of God in our life. So how do we do this? We take time for silence. We take time for prayer. We take time to look at ourselves. Oftentimes we fall into the all or nothing outside, but also we do it within don’t we? We see ourselves as either we’re bad or we’re good. Some days we follow our routines, we do our checklists, we had a great day. Some days we think we’re terrible because we did something wrong. Again, we’re looking at ourselves even in that lens of all or nothing. Christ wants to restore that relationship back with us, but first it starts with Him. First it starts with God and if we have our relationship with God first which is that we are children of God that you are a son or daughter of God and you are beloved. With that lens in mind then you’re able to see the world more clearly. You’re able to see yourself more clearly. You’re able to see that yes, you have sins, but through the grace of God you can move forward. That’s why in all of our liturgies, the Mass, everything else, certain rites, we always look at ourselves first to let go of these things so as to be prepared to receive God into our lives.

At the Ascension at Pentecost Jesus rose again and his disciples wanted him to stay, but he said, ‘I must leave for the Spirit to come. The Spirit will come and teach you everything.’ The spirit he’s speaking about is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and that’s how you understand the nuance of life. That’s how you see through the lens of God is to let go of your own sinfulness and let the Spirit guide you in your own lives to figure out what God is calling you to each moment of the day. That is what we’re called to. The world wants us to look outside for all the answers, but Christ is calling us to something much deeper to see that the Word of God that lays deep within your heart, listen to that. Listen to the Spirit. So as you come to receive the Eucharist today where Christ is truly present before you ask the Lord for the strength and the courage to look at ourselves honestly, quit looking outside, but then have the faith that it’s through the grace of God that I can. On my own I can’t, but with the grace of God I can see more clearly. Amen.”