My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We all experience good times, and bad. The New Year got off to a bad start for me. I was very sick with the flu right after Christmas for almost a week. The good for me was that I was able to take a short vacation and rest.
Being able to get way from our daily routine for a week or two is something very importance to all of us. Jesus, our best teacher and model, often found himself a quite place to pray to his Father. Adapting to this model, every year after Christmas and New Year celebrations, my religious society has an annual retreat that our members are required to attend. It is a good opportunity to recharge our batteries and our strength within the community life.
Thus, I did have the time to renew my inner energy and my relationship with God in a special way. I felt that I could live my vocation as a free and happy life. I know that some of the young people may think that we are just living a tough life. That we have to be single and lonely most of our life. The truth is that we are really free and living a very healthy, and happy life. Free because we don’t have family worries, and happy because we live and work most of our life right next to the Church. We have more time to pray and stay closer to the Lord through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Surely, as only God can set us free from the slavery of sins and fulfill our desires, we have to stay closer to him.
After the retreat, I also had the opportunity to attend to a short and sweet class reunion, which was my high school class of 1995 from Vietnam. It was our first class reunion in the United States. We were very happy that we finally were able to organize an event that 10 of us, who now live in this country, were able to attend. I was a little surprised at first that we all had changed and grown old. I didn’t even recognize them when I first saw them. Of course, we all look much older and different than twenty years ago.
The members of our class all come from the same parish and home town in Vietnam and two of us are priests. Most of my other friends either own, or work for, a nail salon. This type of job is hard for them because of the smell of the chemicals and because they are serving the public, but it is an easy business to start.
Throughout the class reunion, I learned that my friends and our parents had to pay a great price to come to this country. We all wanted to have freedom and the opportunity to fulfill our hopes and dreams. I also learned that we all had a lot of things in common when we first settled in this country. Most of us had to leave behind our relatives, our homes, and even our careers. We had to learn many new things. For one example, I was asked to throw away all the leftovers when I worked in a restaurant. I felt guilty about doing this at first, but later on I learned that a customer deserves to have fresh food when he or she paid for the price on the menu. So it makes sense, but it is a hard lesson for me because I always think about the people who are living in other parts of the world who go to sleep with an empty stomach. Thus, it was not easy for us at first to adapt to the new environment and culture. We expected the United States to be just like a paradise, but we learned that it has many challenges.
My dear friends, happiness and freedom are what we all desire for our lives. Our age, race, and culture don’t matter because in the end we all hope and long for a free and happy life. I share with you a part of my life to let you know that the immigrants in this country have a lot struggles when they first settle in, but through their perseverance and hard work, they can accomplish a lot both physically and spiritually.
All in all, I would love to see my friends again, maybe at the 25th reunion or at one the weddings of their children. I pray for them every week and share with them that we don’t really feel free and happy in this life. Our life here on earth is just like a kite in the sky. We fly freely in this beautiful world when we stay connected with the Lord and keep his commandments and laws. The moment that we disconnect ourselves from the life of the church and God, we will crash. Thus, I hope and pray that you and I will continue to try our best to stay connected with the love and care of God and our family. That we will respect Gods law and human laws, so we all can be safe in this world in the next life also.