WYD 2011: Catechesis session in Vietnamese: "Deeply rooted in Christ"

My dear young people (and “young-at-heart”),

We all know how a plant grows. Beyond what we can see above the ground, we also know that a plant has to grow its root in the ground, not only to be able to stand steadily but also to take nutrition and thus be able to live and to flourish.

Together with the image of plant growing root in the ground, St. Paul uses the action, “build”, to describe the intimate relationship between Christ and His believers. When talking about building, we are talking about building a project. Every project has to have a foundation no matter what its size is. A strong foundation is the most important factor to keep a building project stable in stormy weather. If the foundation is not strong, the building project will easily collapse.

Our Holy Father Benedict XVI chooses these two images: a plant taking root in the ground and strong foundation of a building project, to be the theme of World Youth Day XXVI. During this great gathering, Vietnamese youth, joining with youth from all over the world, celebrate the faith we have received. It is also the opportunity for us to reflect on the Catholic faith in the context of the reality of the world todays.

In the Pope’s message for young people this year, he compares our world with that of the Colossians: confused in the midst of many confusing movements and values, all aiming at fooling humans with faulty reasoning, with distorted notions of freedom that are based on secularism - they often contradict our Christian faith. In this second topic of the series of Catechism lessons, let us share with one another some reflections of our faith, so that we can better live our Christian faith.

1. Taking root in Christ means rediscovering the grace of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that through Baptism, we are forgiven of all our sins in order to become new creations. The water of Baptism revives us and makes us become children of God. St. Paul uses different imagery words such as, “burial, rising from death”, to describe the revival of the faithful when they receive this Sacrament (Cl 2, 12). Emerging in the life-giving water, our old selves die and give way to the new selves, the ones that are filled with grace. Baptism leads us from death to life, from darkness to light. When receiving this Sacrament, we promise to live as children of light, to reject sins and all that are contrary to the Christian faith. The Holy Father wrote, “Baptism is not a rite of the ancient time, but rather, an encounter with Christ that affects the whole life of those who receive it; it brings them the Divine life, calls them to a sincere conversion that makes possible by grace, and enables them to mature in the faith of Christ (Messages for Lent 2011).

Because most people receive Baptism when they were little, they did not fully understand the significance of this Sacrament, neither did they understand the responsibilities of those who receive it. When receiving Baptism, we are beginning a new journey - the journey of faith. This journey lasts throughout our whole lives. St. Paul invites the Colossians: “Take deep root and build your lives on the foundation of Christ, relying on the faith that you have been taught, and let your souls be filled with gratitude.” St. Paul’s advice help the faithful growing in the Baptismal grace, the grace that enables everyone to mature and flourish in faith.

While rediscovering the grace of Baptism, we recognize God’s presence in our lives. Our Holy Father warns young people of a danger in their world today: “There is a tendency of secularization that takes God out of human life and out of human society, attempting to build a “paradise” without God. However, experience teaches us that a world without God is hell because that world is filled with selfishness, division in family, hatred among individuals and nations; love, joy and hope are absent in that world” (Message of the World Youth Day XXVI, #3).

“There is a contradiction in the attempt to leave God out of the picture of human life! God is the source of life: rejecting Him means rejecting the source of life, which will lead to the loss of grace and true joy: ‘Indeed, without its Creator, a creature will cease to exist.’”

2. Taking root in Christ means recognizing that we belong to the Church. The Church is described as the Body of Christ. A body consists of many parts, none of which is useless, and every one of which has a different function. Jesus Christ is the head of that mystical body. Through Baptism, we belong to the Church and become a part of that body. Just like every part having to belong to the body, a baptized Christian has to live in communion with the Church.

The Catholic Church in Vietnam has recently celebrated the Jubilee 2010. This is an opportunity for us to again take a look at our Church from different angles. “The Jubilee invites and encourages the faithful to build a Church of communion, a Church in which everyone shares all the joys and pains, a Church in which everyone realizes that they are loved and cared for, and at the same time everyone has the responsibility to love and care for one another and for the common goods of the Church” (from the opening speech of the Jubilee celebration, by Bishop Nguyen Van Nhon, President of the College of Catholic Bishops of Vietnam).

When recognizing that we belong to the Church of Christ, we unite with the faith community where we live, passionately participate in church groups or apostolic movements according to the gift God has given us. It is with our participation in these faith communities that our faith matures. Taking root in Christ, we generously accept the imperfect of our Church community, and together contribute our part to help build a better community.

Being part of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, we are also members of a Church family. Baptism unites us all regardless of our differences in cultures, languages, traditions; The Catholic faith unites us in a wonderful unity: there is no longer difference; there is but only love, unity and fraternal solidarity.

This unity prompts us to ask ourselves, “What have I done for my Church?”; “What is the Church expecting of me?”; “Where is my place in the Church?” Once we recognize the Church as a family, we will live with other family members with a generous love; we will welcome the differences of our brothers and sisters; and we will generously dedicate our lives to serve others.

Our Lord Jesus has established the Church on the foundation of Peter: “You are Peter, the Rock, upon this rock I will build my Church, and the power of death will not prevail” (Mt 16, 18). The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, the Holy One of Truth, Who comes to aid us in our humanly weakness. It is the secret of the long-lasting life of the Church.

Yes, we belong to the Church. The Church is us. Realizing that truth helps us build our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

3. Taking root in Christ means listening and living the Words of God. In one of the parables, Jesus mentions different kinds of soil on which seeds are sowed. He goes on to explain that those who sow their seeds on rocks are like the people who quickly receive the Word of God, but because they don’t allow God’s Word to take root in their lives, they immediately fall when encountering hardships in life (Mt 13, 20). Jesus Christ accomplished his salvific mission with patience and generosity as the sower sows seeds in fertile soil. He wholeheartedly brought the Words of Life to all so that they will live and live to the fullest.

The faithful are nourished by the Words of God: “People do not live on bread alone but also on the Words from the mouth God” (Mt 4, 4). With the eyes of faith, they recognize His Words anytime and everywhere, in all life situations, in all joys and pains. Through listening to the Words of God, we feel that He is always close to us and is always present with us. St. Jerome wrote, “How can people live without the knowledge of the Words of God? Through Scripture, we learn about Christ, Who is the very life of all believers.” Our Holy Father Benedict wishes that young people study the Scripture in order to mature in their faith, at the same time become the messenger of the Good News to their friends (Verbum Domini 104).

Keeping the Lord’s commands is the condition to become his disciple: “Why do you call me ‘My Lord, my Lord,’ but not keep my commandments?” (Lc 6, 46). Jesus uses the image of building house to compare the different ways people hearing the Words of God: those who hear and practice are like building house on solid rock; those who hear but do not practice are like building house on sands (Lk 6, 46-69). When reading Scripture, we encounter the Almighty God. When practicing his teachings, we cooperate with Him in order to let His Words immerse in our society and our lives; from there, the Truth, the Holiness and the Beauty will flourish.

My dear young people,

Our Holy Father invites us in this gather to ask ourselves a question: “Upon what foundation do I build my life?”; “Who is Jesus Christ to me?”; “What does He want me to do in the particular life I am living?” We have to find the answers for those questions, but not only the answers by words but also by actions and by our whole lives. When we try to live the life as what we have been reflecting today, we are indeed taking deep root in Christ and building our lives on the foundation of Christ. Our faith will then be strengthened.

Thank you for your attention.