Roadwork For Your Salvation – Fr. Viet Nguyen

AFr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily July 11, 2021

“So as you might know the Olympics are about to start this year in I believe Tokyo and it’s interesting about the Olympics these athletes who don’t really get paid that much but they dedicate so much of their time sacrifice so much to do this every four years and there’s only a short amount of time in their life that they can actually do this and I was reading or I was listening to a podcast with one olympic athlete. I can’t remember her name, but she’s worked for this since she was a little kid day in day out, trained, sacrificed kind of some relationships, even went into debt to fulfill this dream and so when the reporters asked her when she won the gold they asked her, ‘How do you feel?’ She just started crying. She said, ‘I feel empty.’ She said, ‘I worked my whole life for this one moment, gold. I dreamt of this since I was a kid and now that it’s here, it’s not what I expected. What do I do now?’ Oftentimes in our lives we have a certain goal in our life or maybe we don’t. Maybe we just go through our lives day in and day out doing the same thing hoping that at the end of the road there will be something there. Our goal as Christians, I think we lose sight of it, is the salvation of our souls. That is the mission of the Church. That is your mission as a baptized Christian, the salvation of your soul and the souls of all. I’ve found in America in the secular world the one thing we search for is comfort. We strive for it. I don’t shop very often anymore, but when I do I kind of go on the internet and I remember my dad used to tell me when I was growing up, ‘Buy what you need, not what you want.’ Well when I watch commercials when I go online I see deals I don’t even want it, but they make me seem like I need it, right? I don’t know if you have that same feeling. I just bought something that I don’t think I even want, but somehow they convinced me that I want it! But it’s all around comfort, make things a little bit easier.

We ask kids what they want to do, they want to get into a good high school. 
‘From high school, okay what do you want to do?’ 
‘Get good grades, go to a good college.’ 
‘Okay what after that?’ 
‘Get good grades so I can get a job.’ 
‘Well what are you going to do with that job?’ 
‘Well get a good job to make good money.’ 
‘Okay once you get there then what?’ 
‘Then raise a family and provide for my family.’ 
‘And then after that what?’ 

There’s no end in sight. Once you get there, I’ve met people where they get to retirement and just like this gold medalist it’s empty. They realize they strived so much in their life for something that they didn’t really want, but for us as Christians, God is calling us to something more. He’s calling to us to a deeper relationship, an adventure. I talk to the grade school kids and I can see when they start to lose their sense of adventure. It’s around 4th to 5th grade. They stop asking the interesting questions. They start closing in on themselves, but all the movies, all the books that we read that we really fall in love with that inspire is always a call to adventure, a call out of yourself and in the Gospel today that’s what God is calling the twelve apostles to. He’s calling them out to go out to preach the Gospel to go out and preach repentance, but not only that what does he say? ‘All I want you to do is take sandals on your feet and take a walking stick, nothing else.’ Why? It’s so that they won’t rely on themselves that what they’re given becomes a gift that they’re present in the moment that they’ll grow in deeper trust in and relationship with God in their own lives. They do it like St. Paul says, ‘It’s when I’m weak that I’m most strong.’ God calls the weak to show the prideful that through the grace of God they can.

Now the twelve apostles, they come to preach. They are prophetic, to preach. Now Fr. Gary asked this question last week and I’m gonna test you again. How many prophets are out here? Alright, more hands that’s great! Again he said, ‘Everyone should raise their hand.’ By your very baptism you were baptized as priest, prophet and king. King to govern, right? To govern those in your family. Priest- to sacrifice. I’m a priest. My main mission is to sacrifice at the Mass. Well you’re all called to be priests in your own life to sacrifice to the Lord and the last is to be a prophet, to preach the Gospel to preach the Good news. Even when you’re baptized there’s a prayer we pray over you it’s called the Ephphetha. It means to be open that through your baptism that the grace of God may open your ears that you may hear the word of God preached every Sunday but also have the courage to open your mouth to preach the Gospel in your own lives. So you might say though, ‘Well the twelve apostles became the first bishops and they knew Christ. They saw him and Father, you were trained to preach.’ But look at the examples in scripture, especially our first reading today, Amos. He was called to preach and when they said, ‘Go preach somewhere else. We don’t want to hear what you have to say, you prophet.’ He says, ‘I’m not really a prophet! I wasn’t born in a prophetic line. I’m a shepherd. Really I plant sycamore trees. I treat them, but God has called me out of myself to preach for him.’ and that’s what he’s calling each one of you in your own lives to preach the Gospel to go out of yourself to have mission. The one thing we should be comfortable with is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Start to be comfortable being uncomfortable because in doing that, literally you start to let go and then you will start to see the grace of God work in your life.

Now here are three things, three things that my rector in seminary used to center everything around. I think it applies to the Christian life. My rector was Fr. Barron at the time, now he’s Bishop Barron, but these three things as Christians if you keep at the heart of your life then you will become, it’s kind of the roadwork for your salvation:

  1. Know that you are a sinner. First and foremost know that you are a sinner. Know that you can’t do it on your own. Know your own sins because it humbles you. It keeps you open to the grace of God. It keeps you open to relationships in your life. When we become self-centered saying we have no sins we close in on ourselves. We isolate ourselves. Know that you are a sinner. Even in our very Mass what do we first do when we come together? We do our penitential rite. We ask for God’s mercy to open ourselves up to the readings and to the sacraments before us.
  2. Keep Christ at the center. Keep Christ at the center of your life. Keep Christ close. That means pray. Do you take time to pray each day? Do you keep the sabbath day? So in our days we center our lives around prayer, yes, but in our week we center around the sabbath. In our year we center around certain liturgical years. Even in our calendar we center ourselves around Christ in certain ways. Even in the shape of our church now Christ is at the center. What is at your heart? Keep Christ at the center. Stay close to the sacraments. It’s keeping Christ at the center that grounds you, but that’s what nurtures and sustains you so you don’t burn out.
  3. Your life is not about you. He kept on telling us, ‘Your life is not about you.’ The world tells us it’s all about you. Christ is saying your life is not about you.

We see that even in the Mass- know that you’re a sinner, we do the penitential act. Keep Christ at the center, at the center of the liturgy is the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith and then at the very end of Mass- your life is not about you. Go out and proclaim the Gospel. In the Gospel today he even says, ‘Go out with nothing.’ because when you learn that your life is not about you now, now you’re open to the grace of God flowing through you. Now you’re ready for an adventure in your life to see what you’ve become. Now you’re ready to be wholly you. Our lives we search for something deep inside of us that says we can do more, there’s something more there. When we get out of the way God’s grace helps us become wholly human, fully us. We can’t quite see it, but when you realize that your life is not about you, your life opens up to something much greater. It’s not like the gold medalist where their life was all about them winning this gold, but when your life is not about you and it’s more about the mission of God the salvation of souls, now you’re in for an adventure and that adventure is for you each and every day. So as you come to receive the Eucharist today where Christ is truly present before you in the Eucharist let us have the strength and the courage to take to heart these three things. Keep them close knowing that we are sinners opens up to God’s grace, to keep Christ at the center that he may nurture and sustain our lives and then to know that our lives are not about us so that now we are ready to be prophetic in our own lives to go out and preach the Gospel. Amen.”