Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Easter and Marian Day for the Vietnamese Catholic Community

15 May 2022

Vietnamese Catholic Pilgrimage Centre Bringelly, 15 May 2022

In the feature article in today’s Sydney Morning Herard Lauren Ironmonger asks whether monogamy is dead and we are destined for multiple contemporaneous and successive primary loves?[1] She says it is the question on the mind of millennials as they navigate the perennial human search for love.

Human beings love love. To help us find some version of it we have solicitous relatives, life coaches, therapists, self-help books, dating apps, bars and clubs, social groups, and more. Perhaps even your chaplains and religious sisters try matchmaking! Ask Dr Google “What is love?” and you get more than 11 billion entries! Artists, philosophers and theologians all have their take on it; psychologists, sociologists, even biologists also.[2] In 2014, a Canadian biotech company called ‘Instant Chemistry’ attempted to put some science into the love industry by offering DNA kits with ‘love manuals’ to help unlucky-in-love customers find genetically compatible partners.[3]

Popular culture is likewise awash with love themes. We think of love songs, romantic comedies, reality-TV shows about finding a partner, ‘penny dreadful’ romance novels, and more. According to these authorities, we all crave love and a get a real buzz out of it when it comes. But it can prove elusive or fleeting. Or you might be lucky and find “the one” who is made for you. For all the searching and strategising, pop culture says love mostly just ‘happens’ to us: we “fall” in and out of love, are consumed or blindsided by it, end up ‘love sick’ and acting irrationally because of it. We associate it with the heart rather than the head because it is said to be blind, sentimental, illogical. There’s just no accounting for it!

But the version of love commonly offered in the pop culture is not the only kind. What about the kind of love that doesn’t necessarily make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but that perseveres through the hard times; the kind of love that is more concerned with the one loved than with ourselves, that requires self-sacrifice, and that lasts because it is chosen and committed to; the kind of love that appeals not just to passions but to intellect and that matures over time? You won’t make much sense of it through a microscope, nor through watching The Farmer Wants a Wife, but this kind of love is what we need much more than the pop culture’s version.

Think of motherly love. A love that calls for bodily sacrifice during pregnancy, birth and breast-feeding, through seemingly endless nappy changes and sleepless nights; emotional sacrifice also, and perhaps some compromise to career and income for the sake of the little one; and many more demands in the years to come. Not for personal gain, this kind of loving, or for warm, fuzzy feelings, but purely out of love for the child… Mother love is not the love celebrated in popular culture.

Or think of God’s love. Our Psalm celebrates a God who is “kind and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love…good and compassionate to all” (Ps 144). The New Testament says He is a loving Father who so loved the world He gave His only Son (Jn 3:16), a Son that in the words of our Second Reading would be like a loving spouse to the Church (Rev 21:1-5).

Which points us to Jesus’ kind of love: after all, His last commandment to us which we heard today was to love one another as He had loved us (Jn 13:31-35). Jesus’ is in fact the greatest love story ever told, and it is no rom-com, no unreality TV saga. What would it mean to love Jesus’ way?

Well, Jesus taught us lots of other things about loving God the Father and Himself, other Christians, our neighbours, the poor, strangers, even enemies. He kept telling us how interconnected we are, like sheep of a flock, branches of a vine, bricks of a building. He taught us that blessedness is being meek, forgiving, generous and peace-loving, eschewing anger and hate, violence and recrimination.[4]

At his Last Supper Jesus said we were no longer just His followers: we are His friends. He told us to abide in His love, living by His commandments, even giving up our lives for each other. He prayed for our unity and blessed us with His peace. As an example to us of His own kind of loving, He washed our feet and gave His very self to us in the Eucharist.[5]

The next day, as He was dying, He gave His Mother to us to adopt and care for, which made us brothers and sisters in a new way, and then he gave us to her to protect. And after His rising, He again called us His siblings, recalled Peter to loving him, and blessed us with His peace.[6]

All of which got the apostles thinking that God isn’t just about love: He is love. To be godly, then, is to loving. Without such love, Paul says, we are merely a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal, nothing at all (1Cor ch. 13). Without practical works of mercy, James and John said, faith and love are a farce (Jam 2:14-20; 1Jn 3:16-18). So much does this love-god Jesus want us to know love, He gives us a double dose: the love of His Father (Jn 3:35; 5:20; 8:42; 10:17; 13:1,34-35; 14:32; 15:9) and the love of His Mother (Jn 19:27). Being thus made into a family, we can call each other brother, sister, friend.[7] Jesus says we must love one another, not just any old way, but His way!

Our Lady of Lavang, Mother Mary, was a major player in that greatest love story ever told. She had heard God’s constant calls to Israel to come back to him and be reunited with Him and through Him with each other. She reverses the first Eve’s No to God, saying Yes to God with all her life. Once Mary said Yes on behalf of all humanity our reconciliation could begin: through His Incarnation, teachings and healings, word and sacraments, Christ is God reconciling the world to Himself. And to assist Him there was, first of all, Mary. After uttering her consent, she threw herself wholeheartedly into His care as a baby and she stuck by Him to the end. She taught Him Israel’s ancient law: to love God and neighbour. And He taught her His new way: to love even enemies, to love as He loved, to love even unto death.

If we are to be God’s chosen people and Jesus’ followers-become-brothers, we have no better example than Mary, of a love that loved even when the loving was hard, a love focused on the beloved not just ourselves, a love that commits and sacrifices self, a love that is as intelligent as it is passionate, a love that feeds and cares and perseveres like a mother’s, a love slow to anger and rich in mercy like God’s. The Church and people of Australia need the Vietnamese Catholic community to share with us the love and faith you learnt from the Virgin of Lavang, from Andrew Dung-Lac An Tran and companions, from the other missionaries and heroes of your Catholic history. In Mary and the Martyrs of Vietnam we see Jesus’ kind of love in action: for they are examples to us of unity, meekness, forgiveness, service, blessing… Being made children of God the Father and also of Mary, we are made into the Church, the school for loving, the hospital for the hurting, the temple to the God of love. Our Lady of Lavang and Martyrs of Vietnam pray for us.

[1]       Lauren Ironmonger, “Are we destined for multiple loves? Millennials think so,” Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/are-we-destined-for-multiple-loves-millennials-think-we-are-20220509-p5ajpo.html

[2]        Is love just a fleeting chemical high in the brain? – BBC Future; Scientists find a few surprises in their study of love – Harvard Gazette; Falling in love is ‘more scientific than you think,’ according to new study by SU professor | Syracuse University News; Telltale Signs You’ve Got the ‘Love Hormone’ Gene? | TIME.com

[3]        Love is in Your Genes | Psychology Today

[4]       Friendship with God: Mt 6:24; 22:37; Mk 12:30; Lk 10:27; 11:42; 16:13; Jn 14:21,23; 15:9; 16:27; 17:6,23-26. Friendship with Jesus: Mt 10:37-39; 11:19; 26:50; Lk 5:20; 7:34; 12:4,14; Jn 3:29; 8:42; 11:3,5,11,36; 13:1,23,34; 14:15,21,23; 15:9-15; 16:27; 17:26; 18:9; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:15-17,20. Friendship between the disciples: Lk 6:42; Jn 13:14,34-35; 15:12-17. Friendship with neighbors: Mt 5:43-44; 7:3-5; 19:19; 22:39; Mk 5:19; 12:31; Lk 6:41-42; 10:25-37. Friendship with inferiors, the poor, strangers, enemies, and persecutors: Mt 5:43-47; 23:10-11; 25:31-46; Lk 6:27-36; 10:25-37; 14:12-13; 16:1-9,19-31; 18:9-14. Citizens of the one kingdom: Mt 5:3,10,19; 6:33; 7:21; 11:11; 13:38,43; 16:19; 18:1-4; 19:14; 21:31;  25:34; 26:29; et par.; Jn 3:3-5; 18:36; Rom 14:17; Eph 2:19. Worshippers in the Temple: Mt 16:18; 21:14-15; Lk 22:53; 24:53; Jn 2:19-21; 7:14,28; 8:2; 10:23; 18:20; 1Cor 3:16-17; 2Cor 5:1; Eph 2:21-22. Sheep of one flock: Mt 18:12; 25:32-33; 26:31; Jn 10:1-18; 21:16-17; Heb 13:20; cf. 1Pet 2:25; 5:1-11. Fish in a net: Mt 4:19; Lk 5:2-11; 13:47; Jn 21:6-8. Branches of one vine: Jn 15:1-11; cf. Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-32, 33-43; Lk 6:43-45. Workers in a vineyard: Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-32,33-44; et par.; cf. 1Cor 3:5-9. Builders and stones of a building: Mt 7:24-25; 16:18; 21:42,44; Lk 6:46-49; 14:28-30; cf. 1Cor 3:9-15; 14:3,12,26; 2Cor 5:1; 10:8; 12:19; 13:10; Eph 2:20; 4:12-29; Heb 6:1; 11:10. Diners at the same table/banquet: Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 26:7,29; Lk 5:29-32; 7:36-50; 17:7-10; 22:1,27,30; 24:30; Jn 13:4,12. Passengers in the one boat: Mt 8:23-27; 13:2; 14:22-33; Jn 6:16-24; 21:3-8. Blessedness is being meek, forgiving, generous and peace-loving, eschewing anger and hate, violence and recrimination: Mt 5:4-9, 20-21, 38-39; 6:38; 7:12; 26:52; Lk 6:27-36 etc.

[5]       Disciples are Jesus’ friends and brothers: Mt 12:50; 26:50; 28:10; Lk 22:32; Jn 3:29; 13:34-35; 15:9-17; 17:23,26; 20:7; 1Jn 2:5; 2:10; 3:10-23; 4:7-21; 5:1-3. John lay against Jesus’ breast: Jn 13:23. Love one another: Jn 13:34; 15:9-10 etc. Prayer for unity: Jn 10:16; 13:14,35; 15:1-7; 16:33; 17:11-24; cf. Mt 12:25; 18:15-20; 23:8; Mk 3:25. Blessing with peace: Jn 14:27; 16:33. Washing the feet and instituting the Eucharist: Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:17-19; 24:30-36; Jn 6:25-69; 13:1-23; 20:19,26; 21:13; 1Cor 10:16; 11:23-26.

[6]       Mary entrusted to John: Jn 19:26-27. After the Resurrection: Mt 28:10; Lk 22:32; 24:36; Jn 20:17,19,21,26; 21:15-19.

[7]       God is love: Jn 3:16,35; 5:20; 14:21,23; 16:27; 17:23-26; 1Jn 2:5,15; 3:1; 4:7-21. Jesus is friendship: Jn 10:17; 11:3,5,36; 13:1,34-35; 14:21,23,31; 15:9-10; 16:27; 17:23. The Holy Spirit is charity: Jn 14:15-17; 20:22; 1Jn 3:24; 4:1-16. Demonstrating love: 1Jn 2:7-11; 4:7-11; 2Jn 1:4-6. Christians call each other brethren, friends, carissimi: Acts 15:25; 21:17,20; Rom 12:10; 16:16; 1Cor 9:5; 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Thess 4:9; 5:26; Heb 13:1; 1Pet 1:22; 2:11,17;  4:12;5:9,14; 2Pet 1:7; 3:14; 1Jn 2:7; 3:2; 4:7 etc.

Introduction to Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Easter and Marian Day for the Vietnamese Catholic Community
Vietnamese Catholic Pilgrimage Centre Bringelly, 15 May 2022

Welcome dear members and friends of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Sydney to the celebration of Mass for the fifth Sunday of Easter. It is a joy to be with you here again today on this the annual festival for the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Lavang. Last week in our civil calendars we celebrated Mothers Day and remembered and acknowledged all the wonderful work done by our earthly mothers, those still with us and those departed. Today we remember our heavenly Mother, whose love and care for all of God’s children is truly a blessing and whose intercession brings us all closer to the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I salute concelebrating with me today: Rev. Fr Remy Bui Son Lam; Rev. Fr Paul Van Chi Chu; and other clergy associated with the chaplaincy or community. I also acknowledge lay officials of the Vietnamese Catholic Community and other distinguished guests. I also welcome the Eucharistic Youth, the young people serving the Mass, all the groups who participated in our Marian procession today, the choir and other participants. Surrounding every Vietnamese celebration is a great company of saints: those like our clergy, religious sisters and lay organisers of our Mass, devotions, procession and feast; and those raised to the altars, of which there are so many from Vietnam, including St Andrew Dung-Lac An Tran and companions. To everyone present today, a very warm welcome to you all…