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Meant To Bear Fruit – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily March 19, 2022

“So we’re in our second reading today, the Epistle of St. Paul, it’s quite a harsh reality he calls us to and that very last sentence, he says, ‘Those who think they are standing on firm ground be careful not to fall. So I’m going to tell you a little story about one of my falls, and I don’t know if you remember, but about two years ago, this June, June 2nd, I shattered my leg and so a lot of people thought my leg was amputated because I had like a peg thing down and the robes were covering it up. And, I’ll tell you this story. I don’t know if I ever told anyone here what actually happened. So I literally like two days before the fall bought there’s longboard, OK, thinking I could still do this and it was in the trunk of my car and I just finished noon mass and I thought, Well, it’s a beautiful day, just like today, why don’t I just take that longboard down to the rectory and go have lunch? So instead of walking like I usually do, I took that longboard out of the trunk of my car and I rode it. I rode it here. I rode it all the way around and then down down the nice hill we have here at Ascension, crossed the road into the rectory parking lot, and then I realized I was going a little faster than I was hoping. And I think I panicked. I put my leg down for like a split second. I fell, and when I fell, I looked at my leg and it wasn’t straight. It wasn’t straight. But, you know, in those moments of pain, in those moments of pain, you start to realize something. You’re more aware of your senses and this time I’m aware of the sense of pain in my leg. But not only that, actually, to tell you the truth, the more annoying thing for me was I was still wearing my all black and I was on the pavement, which was all black, and it was a hot, sunny day, so I was just really hot more than anything. I tell this story because in times of struggle and pain in our life, we get a better awareness of certain senses of ours. Certain senses of ours, and so even in the recovery process, laying in bed, I had to lay in bed for 14 days with my leg up. But laying in bed you start to realize all by yourself different things. Time slows down. It seemed like it stayed forever. But then you have time to think. You see what’s going on within your own heart. You see, what are the things you’ve been avoiding thinking about all this time? So you get a better sense of your physical senses. But in some ways, you leave room for your spiritual senses. And oftentimes we don’t leave room for our spiritual senses. So let me ask you, this is the third Sunday of Lent. How are you doing this Lenten season? How are you doing? How are you doing with the disciplines of lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving? How are you doing with taking this time in some sense of stepping intentionally in the desert, in the desert? So this experience for me in some ways is a glimpse of going into the desert. You know, when you go into the desert, it is a barren place. But again, you are more attuned to your very senses of the heat of the desert, of your sense of thirst, your sense of hunger, your senses. You’re more aware of those things. And so for me, in my experience, but we all go through these times in the desert that are kind of forced upon us. For me, it was an injury. For others, it can be an injury. It could be a death in the family. It could be a loss of a job. It could be anything like that because it forces you into a place that you don’t want to be, in a place, a humble place where you have to accept and really you leave room for God’s grace in your life. But here, this season of Lent, the Church calls us to intentionally step into the desert. To intentionally look at ourselves to intentionally strengthen our relationship with God.

You know, many of us, in today’s Gospel God talks about mercy. OK. And oftentimes there is the left and right hand of God, there is justice and mercy and sometimes these get kind of pinned against each other. That justice is bad and mercy is good, but really, they’re both there. They’re both needed in our lives. Justice: Justice, a simple definition for justice is giving to one what they deserve. So if you study well and you do all the marks in the school and you get an a is just to give the student an A if they did a work. It is also justice if they did none of their homework to fail them. And it is also justice to fail them, giving to one what they deserve.

Now, Mercy: Mercy is to give to one more than they deserve. To give to one more than they deserve. Mercy, mercy is what we’re called to experience in God’s love. It’s to transform us. If we think about any times in our lives that really move us is a glimpse of God’s mercy in our life, expressed through a situation, a person. But it is only when we look at ourselves, when we’re attuned to these things. So in our lives, we like to compare ourselves with others. There’s a saying of, ‘Do not compare yourself to who someone else is today. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.’ So compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not just who someone else is today. In the Gospel, he was saying, how do you think that you are better or less sinful than those who fell, the 18 that fell at Sodom? And we often compare ourselves to see where we are, how we’re doing. I say, well, I’m doing better than them, so I don’t really need to do anything else or I’m not doing as well as them, maybe I’m doing worse, I’m doing bad. God is calling us to humble ourselves to see ourselves as we are. But often times it’s too painful to look at where we are. Because of justice, we know justice. We know what we’ve done wrong and what we haven’t. And so when we take time in the desert, these things appear, we’re very aware of justice. We judge ourselves for it. We judge others more. But during the season of Lent, God calls us to repent, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent for the glory of God is before you. It’s in the desert that we are transformed, but not by our own merit, but by God’s grace.

Have you been to confession this Lenten season? Have you experienced God’s grace, his mercy for you, because not only do we look at our sins, but we have to know where to go with it. It’s our hope that we can continue to look at our own sins, to see our own faults and then to go to Christ for that grace. Maybe you’ve experienced you have plans this Lenten season for fasting, prayer and almsgiving, and maybe it hasn’t gone as you have liked. I forgot if I preached that this mass or a different one, but I said, ‘Do one thing that you know you can do to change your life that will be good for you to change, that you will grow closer to Christ because of it and do it every day. And I said, you will not do it perfectly. You will mess up. But that’s not the point. The point is what comes up when you do mess up. Do you beat yourself down because of it? Do you say I failed, so I just won’t do it anymore? Do I say, Well, do I rationalize it? Well my spouse isn’t really doing his either? So I don’t really, I’m OK with not doing mine. Or do we compare ourselves to who we were yesterday saying, OK, I didn’t do it then, but I will recommit myself today. And in some ways that is kind of the Holy Spirit guiding us, bringing us to him.

The Gospel gives us the analogy of the tree that bears fruit, but we’re all called to do great things. It stirs within our own heart to do great things in our lives. And so we’re all meant to bear fruit. Just like a tree meant to bear fruit. The thing here is kind of the balance between justice and mercy is here we’ll continue to have our life and one day it will end. That is, in some ways, justice. We know it. But are we willing to change each day, not just give up because of it for God gives us that grace, he gives us that time for it? Is your life bearing fruit, is your prayer life bearing fruit? If not, let us recommit ourselves this season of Lent. Let us use the sacrament of confession to experience love and mercy in your life. So that we can wash away those sins, but then also have the grace to strengthen and we commit ourselves to move forward. If we do that each and every day we will see the glory and the transformation of the resurrection in your own life. But more than that, you will see the great transformation in God’s. So as we come before the Lord today, where Christ is truly present before you in the Eucharist, let us have the strength, the courage and the humility to confess our sins to Christ, to let go of those things so we will be more free to receive the love and mercy of God in our life. Amen.”