Bishop of My Tho Diocese talked to Vietnamese Gathering in Melbourne "Called to Witness"
Melbourne, July 12, 2008

1. The Holy Spirit and the Church are Witnesses
2. How does the Church Take up This Testimonial Task?
3. The Testimonial Task of Christians
a. To Testify to the True, the Good and the Beautiful
b. To Testify to the Ever-Lasting God and Merciful
4. The Resurrection Christ is Our Hope


The WYD 2008 Organizer in Melbourne has asked me to talk about the topic “Called to witness.” This subject is actually neither difficult nor easy at all thus I pray with the Holy Spirit realizing that I am also be called to be Christ’s witness like you are. We can not do this task alone but with the Holy Spirit as said by the disciples in Acts: “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit” (Act 5, 32).

1. The Holy Spirit and the Church are Witnesses:

Before sacrificing Himself, Jesus has mentioned up the task of being witnesses as He said: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (Jn 15, 26-27). From this statement of Jesus, we believe that the Spirit comes from both Jesus and the Father in mission; this divinity task can not be understood or compared as human one. Thus, our testimony to Jesus Christ can not be done based on the human power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit only.

Christ Himself asked the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they received the power of the Holy Spirit that was promised to them. Again in Acts of the Aspostles this has become clearer: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1, 8). And this is what Pope Benedict XVI wants to convey to you at this WYD: receive the power of the Holy Spirit to become Christ’s witnesses.

2. How does the Church take up this Testimonial Task?

Firstly, we must know that the Church always consider Christ Himself as the First Witness. Jesus is a Man that comes from God, a Person in the Womb of God, and is one of the Trinity. As no one knows God but Jesus (Mt 11, 27), so He is the only One that can reveal God to us. He is the Son who experiences the fullest love of the Father; the Son who knows all the intentions of the Father; and the Son who partakes in the salvation plan of the Father. That Son is the Father’s Messenger who comes to us to reveal His Father’s love and to perform His salvation plan for us.

Jesus is also a faithful witness of the Father who only reveals what His Father wants and performs what the Father has taught. He is a faithful witness until death and even dead on the cross, so He was given a name that was above every name. He was called Kurios: King of all kings, and God of all gods.

The second witness was also sent by the Father along with Jesus and in Jesus Himself is the Holy Spirit. He is also the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified (Nicene Creed) . The Holy Spirit is not only a witness with Jesus and in Jesus Himself when Jesus was on earth, but also the One who continues to be Jesus’ witness along with the Church and in the Church herself.

Thus, the testimonial task of the Church is always done with the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit Himself. The Church is called to continue Jesus’ mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20, 21-22). And the Church is renewed by Jesus the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit. From that moment on, the Holy Spirit is always with the Church to make her become Jesus’ faithful witness like Jesus has become God’s faithful one. The Church has always been Christ’s witness throughout the history of thousand years despite all her ups and downs.

Even though with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Church is still on her journey towards the Final Days. In the Church there are two facets: one is divinity as the Holy Spirit is with her, and the other is limited by secular sphere. These two facets are inseparable and indissoluble as they make up one Single Church, and become the sign of unity between God and humans.

3. The Testimonial Task of Christians:

Every Christian who was baptized in the Church and renewed in the Sacrament of Confirmation receives the Holy Spirit to partake in the Church’s mission to become witnesses.

The renewed power that we have received in the Sacrament of Confirmation is the divine mark that can not be erased in our souls. It enriches the grace that we received in the Baptism to make us take root in the vocation of being God’s children, to be closer with Christ and His Church, to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and to give us a special power to become Christ’s witnesses, and to testify our Christian belief (x.TTGLHTCG, No. 268).
The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the three initial Sacraments of the Catholic Church that many young people today have yet paid enough attention to. As you have not witnessed this power to make you become God’s witness or you have not been patient enough to receive one to testify for God, thus this makes you become more fragile and hopeless when facing with difficulties and trials, despite of your willingness and generosity. Thus, in his Message to the Youth, the Holy Father reminds each and everyone of you of this power from the Holy Spirit, and urges you to receive one if you have not.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, you have not only received graces from the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit Himself was given to you as the Power of God that came from above. Of course, this is not the power of the armed forces or of the weapons, the power of money and treasures, the power of violent forces and schemes, or the power of any political parties. This is the power of God’s love that is stronger than death and it was revealed to us through the Resurrection of Jesus who is the power of Justice, and Truth that Jesus mentioned when He faced Pilate: “I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18, 37) or “ The truth will set you free" (Jn 8, 32). It is the power that attracts the everlasting beauty of God, the most implicit and divine beauty in every authentic beauty.

a. To Testify to the True, the Good and the Beautiful

God is the True, the Good and the Beautiful, thus the power of the True, the Good and the Beautiful must come from God and is the “Divine Power” of God Himself. So to testify to God who is the True, the Good and the Beautiful, you must have the Power of God. If you have the Power of God to testify to Him, you are not only a witness to the True, the Good and the Beautiful, but also to testify to God who is the source of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. There are people who do not know God but always want to testify to the truth, thus they are closer to God (because “God is the way and the truth and the life” Jn 14, 6). They are philosophers. They help others know how to destine their life, focus on true happiness instead of the fake ones. Jesus Himself is also a Philosopher ( ref. Pope Benedict Xvi, Spe Salvi, No. 6).

There are people who do not know God but persistently want to look for the good, try their best to work for the good, never accept the evils, and always avoid fighting with the evils. These people are closer to God too as God is the Good as He said to His disciples: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5, 48). So for you, if you want to be closer to God and to testify to God, do good things then you will become Jesus’ most faithful disciples.

It is very dangerous for every human being today to be able to set his or her own standards for good and evil. This is impossible as only God Himself who is the Source of all goodness, and has the absolute power to set these standards. The biggest risk for our human world today is the relativism which does not accept any absolute standard for their thoughts and actions, freely understands the word based on its superficial meaning, and insists that human beings can do anything even the evil acts. I hope that you do not belong to this type of person.

One thing that needs to be emphasized in our thoughts to become God’s testimony is our contemplation and expression of the divine beauty which attracts human’s passion. True artists such as: musicians, singers, poets, sculptors, architects or even the choreographers, they are all the servers for the beauty and needed witnesses in our times. Of course, not only in the field of arts but in other areas of live as well, there are exceptions that may destroy our spiritual life such as: different types of music that arouse human sexual, pornography, violent movies and so on.

When you love the nature, flowers, streams, mountains, and the open sea; when you happily play in the nature, and let your voice fall in line with nature in praising God, you are the witness to God who is the Most Perfect. Is there such a beautiful, lively and amiable testimonial of Saint Francis of Assisi who loves all God’s creations which are our bothers and sisters, who are children of the Heavenly Father: sun, moon, water, stars, birds, fishes, even wolves, and so on? Respect and protect our living environment, as the Holy Father has called on all religions to be in cooperation with one another, is also a way to testify to God who is the author of all creations ( ref: Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Vesak 2008, No. 3).

b. To Testify to the Ever-Lasting God and Merciful

All the above-mentioned values are very fundamental and important to Christian testimony, and some testimonies need to be emphasized more than ever as they are much more difficult and sometimes require us to be on the counter-side or are paid with our ultimate price that is our fame or even our life. Those testimonies are about Love and life, about God the Everlasting and Love.

These testimonies are not abstract, distant, or dogma but very close to human beings and our future. Our world today consists of so many contradicting things: on one hand, it gives very high regards to life, and wants to make life perfect and most enjoyable more than ever, but on the other hand, it constantly tramples and wants to destroy life. For the sake of the right of choice, many have become killers and even worst killers of their own children. I believe that among you, nobody wants to have that kind of contradicting and evil attitude, and you all want to become persons with logical thinking until the end. You are the defenders of life and the builders of the civilization of life.

In Vietnam, there are few people including some priests who have tried their best to build a cemetery for fetus which were destroyed by one way or another that they pick up. This action is highly appreciated by some people, even people of other religions and the government. Many have shed tears when knowing these innocent infants were aborted and killed by their own mothers. To avoid unwanted abortions, some priests and religious have tried to build up some charitable facilities to welcome these unprepared mothers until they give birth, and give them freedom to either keep the child or leave the child there if they are not affordable to raise the child on their own. During the flood season in the Mekong Delta, some infants are fallen out to the deep water and tragically drowned.

I want to emphasize once again it is Love that the Holy Father has courageously emphasized in his first encyclical which is also the core of every Christian live. Love is not something that is too abstract, but rather very specific, and much needed for all of us. Everybody wants to love and to be loved. Everybody loves me and I love everybody, priests, nuns, and all of you. Love especially in your youthful years is something very ebulliently, and making your hearts warm and full of joy. It brings you happiness. Love is alcohol yeast that captures human’s passion and pleasure which is irresistible. It is the joy that God gives when He created us. God Himself is also joyful when He loves as His nature is Love.

You obviously have experienced another aspect of love which is also important and complementary for the above-mentioned aspect of love, and that is called loving towards others. Love is not for your own self because loving yourself is not a real love, but loving other people. When you think of others and you feel real joy and happiness, this means you are in love. However, another element must be added to make it a true love, that is doing good things for others (which is called ti voglio bene in Italian) and always wanting others to be happy and joyful even though you have to sacrifice yourself or give up all you have, especially your own self.

Love in its nature is a sacrifice for the one you love. God is Love, because His nature is Self-Sacrifice. The Father sacrifices Himself for the Son and vice-versa. This Self-Sacrifice is made through the Holy Spirit, Who is also the only Loving God between the Father and the Son. As human beings are created by the image and in the likeliness of the Triune God, therefore we can only obtain true happiness if we know how to sacrifice ourselves for others. In the marriage life, each sacrifices his or herself to other in their intimate love to make their life a reflective image of the Love of the Triune God.

You have two ways to testify to God’s love: the first and normal way is of course through the love of a marriage life, and the second is like other priests and religious, me, and those who want to be single for the Kingdom of God. You can choose from these two different ways. You either choose a single love partner who will ultimately become your wife or husband, and the testimony for that Love of God is the way you love each other completely until the end. The unfaithfulness in the marriage life is a testimony that goes against God’s teachings, and brings a lot of sorrows to all involved, or even destroys your entire family life. Or you can choose a life that sacrifices, loves, and serves all people from different walks of life, especially the poor by a love which is not bound to any human person. The testimony of this kind of love is sacrificing and giving up everything to serve others with a purified love. Sacrificing your lust is extremely necessary for this type of testimony to make it truly effective and productive.

God is Love, and this is not only a universal truth, but happy news to every people. The Almighty and Wisdom God is Love, and all of His Almighty and Wisdom is served for the love and happiness of every human being. God does not hesitate to give His Only Son to us. Because of us and in order to save us, God “sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4, 10).

Human beings are created by the image and in the likeness of God and God is Love, so our nature is also love. This is good news, and an optimistic outlook towards human beings. Good news about God and human beings are not in reverse order, or in opposition against one another, but become one. It is the only good news that Jesus declared as it is the good news of love. Whoever does not love thus does not know God, and they are not worth being humans. Thus Saint John taught us that “if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4, 11). Violent and feud, worries and fears, sorrowful and hopelessness have dominated our world today, thus the good news of Jesus Christ that we proclaim is very needed more than ever for families, societies, nations and the entire human world.

The best and most effective way to proclaim the good news of love is our loving and serving life like our Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In her 3rd visit to Vietnam on April 1994, Mother Teresa paid a visit to Cho Ray Hospital, and stopped by the bed side of a 40-year member of the Communist party. Knowing he had heartache, Mother did not hesitate to touch her hand on his chest and pray for few minutes in silence, and then gave him a picture of our Blessed Mother. She shared with others in that trip that: “this world has so many lethal weapons, and this stuff does not bring peace and happiness except love and mercifulness only. Let ‘s start with a smile, and smile at least five times with the one who do not want to laugh … Being left alone and without being loved is the terrible disease that every person can experience.” Several days later, some people who came to visit their patients saw him wear the picture of the Blessed Mother on his shirt pocket. Thus never nurse a complex about everything, but be courage and active to proclaim good news of Love!

4. The Resurrection Christ is Our Hope:

So, entering into this Third Millennium, where will human beings and the world place their hope to? Where does the human society place its hope? Will society be better and healthier? So many practical questions express the desire for a peaceful and happiness wishes for human beings.

The 10th Synod of Bishops which was convened in 2001, discussed about the episcopal tasks based on the working document entitled “Bishop is the servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world.” Then the September 11 event in New York happened that struck America and the whole world with awe while the Synod was in session.

The Catholic Church was just celebrated Her Great Jubilee Year 2000 with compassion and heartened momentum. So, what does the Church have to respond to those questions? Does the Church contribute her parts to make people feel happy and reason for living?

To answer to those questions, the Church has the good news of the Resurrection God. The Church has never stopped proclaiming the Good News according to God’s commandment. That is the greatest news for human beings: Christ has risen from the death. It is not good news of yesterday or in the past, but even for today, the good news for every people and ages. The Resurrected God is an everlasting God who is among us, and He has overcome sins, death and hell.

We can not even describe enough the joy of the apostles and the disciples of Jesus Christ when they got the good news that God has risen when they saw God. The joy of God’s Resurrection is always the greatest one of the Church for her people. The good news of God’s Resurrection is the source of all hopes and that news is given to the entire Church, especially for the shepherds because they are the successors of the apostles, but in my own humble thought, it is also given to you in a special way as you are the young people of the world today. Together with the shepherds, you are the witnesses.

Coming back to Acts of the Aspostles, we must affirm that: to become witnesses in any form, or in any aspect, the most fundamental testimony of the Church and every Christian must be the testimony in the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit, a testimony about the death and resurrection of Christ. This testimony is a Victory, a victory of a Merciful God, a victory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was pierced, a victory of the Lord and Giver of Life which is also a Loving God, thus that victory is not a one that destroys, and crushes others, but the one which saves, and resurrects; a victory that brings happiness, and eternal life for all.

Whoever believes in the Resurrection Christ partakes in that victory which brings hope for all, because that victory is over death, evils and sins. Christ has risen, and the death could not overcome Him, and He is our Hope and Future. Despite the cruelty of the world, the final say is still the Love of God and ours who are in God. Despite the fullness of the unjust and sorrowful of this world, the final say is still the voice of God’s Justice and the happiness of all human beings. We must testify that by receiving the strength that comes from above, and the Power of God.

May God give you the Holy Spirit, so that you may have strength to testify by your action, voice, and daily life; by your best efforts, joy, singing, laughter, and by the your connection with others, especially the poor; and by your thriving efforts to help and serve those who need you.

We obtain that strength from Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Who is full of the Holy Spirit and incessantly shares His Life, Power, Strength, and Love to those who come to Him. The Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the Peace and Unity for our human beings in a world that is full of conflicts and separations. God has never stopped guiding lives of those who welcome His visit and presence.

(Translated by VietCatholic and Anthony Le)