Summary of Evangelii Gaudium

Joy of the gospel

Evangelii Gaudium is an apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. It was issued on November 24, 2013. It responds to the request of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathered in 2012.

            In the Introduction, the Pope claims his purpose of this exhortation is “to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” (1). The Gospel, which is eternally new, rejoices both the evangelizers and the hearers in every era. According to the Synod, the Gospel must be transmitted to all in three principal settings: “ordinary pastoral ministry,” “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism,” and “those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him” (14).

            Chapter I: Jesus mandated the Church to proclaim the Good News for all people. Although the mission is challenging, it is full of joy if the Church is in communion with Christ. As the Lord initiated her mission, the Church goes forth to show the Father’s infinite mercy, to help people even accepting difficulties, to bear fruit, and to rejoice the evangelizing community. To be capable to transform everything, the call to renewal and conversion appeals to the whole Church, precisely in the parish and other Church constitutions, in basic community and small communities, in movements and forms of association, and in particular churches with bishops as well as the universal Church with the papacy. Furthermore, the core message of the Gospel, which is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ” (36) must be faithfully proclaimed without distortion. Although human limits are the obstacles of the task of evangelization, “it constantly seeks to communicate more effectively the truth of the Gospel” (45). Finally, the Church is always open to everyone, especially the poor and the sick desiring to encounter God.

Chapter II: The contemporary world rapidly changes and has various factors challenging the impulse of missionary renewal in the Church. The economy of exclusion, the new idolatry of money, the financial system ruling rather than serving, and unjust social structures are isolating human beings from each other and are rejecting moral values and God. In the cultural aspect, as attempting to enculturate the Gospel, the Church faces a number of challenges, such as “the form of veritable attacks on religious freedom” (61), “the media and entertainment industries” (62), “the proliferation of new religious movements” (63), and “the process of secularization” (64). Concerning pastoral workers, they have to struggle against different problems, namely individualism, relativism, spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, and spiritual worldliness. These problems get rid of the zeal, joy, hope, love, and fraternal communion of the missionaries. The Pope encourages all missionaries to be conscious of these challenges and not to fear dealing with them because “challenges exist to be overcome” (109).

Chapter III: God offers the salvation to all people. Thus, with the task of evangelization, the Church becomes “a place of mercy freely given” (114) so that the people of all cultures are assembled to God. Each culture contains partial values of the Gospel and is enriched by the Holy Spirit. Also, the Holy Spirit guides all the baptized to proclaim the Gospel in various ways, such as their popular piety or personal dialogue. Furthermore, the homily, having special importance in liturgical context, helps listeners communicate to God with enjoyment and love. Thus, the ministers must pay worthy attention to prepare the preaching. Trusting in the Holy Spirit, being fulfilled with love and zeal, they unceasingly cultivate their knowledge of the Word, let it deeply move their heart, and then faithfully transmit the Biblical message. Finally, we are mindful that the fundamental role of kerygma is “the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal” (164). It invokes growth in faith that requires personal accompaniment.

Chapter IV: As confessing the faith, we realize the social dimension of evangelization. That is, living among the world, all Christians are called to build a better society that will be “a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity” (180). Thus, no one should be excluded from the care of the Church, especially the poor, the vulnerable, the victims of various kinds of human trafficking, the unborn children, and so on. The Church offers them not only physical but also spiritual care with mercy and true love. Furthermore, the Pope proposes four principles for progress in building a better society. They are “time is greater than space” (222-225), “unity prevails over conflicts” (226-230), “realities are more important than ideas” (231-233), and “the whole is greater than the part” (234-237). Finally, in seeking peace, the Church needs to enter into three areas of dialogue with states, society, and other believers (238).

Chapter V: Pope Francis offers some thought of the new evangelization which interiorly “encourages, motivates, nourishes and gives meaning to our individual and communal activity” (261). Particularly, evangelizers do not only proclaim the Good News with full zeal but also have a prayerful life. They open their hearts to Christ and to others so that they become in union with Christ and His people, which grants them greater joy. Furthermore, Christ and His Spirit always accompany evangelizers to help them overcome challenges and difficulties. Thus, they always trust in Christ and the Holy Spirit. In addition, they never ignore the missionary power of intercessory prayer of the great men and women of God, especially our Blessed Mother Mary who Jesus gave to His people and who is always present in the midst of the people.

Note: Evangelii Gaudium is a long document and this is just a personal summary. Therefore, missing points and omitting content is unavoidable. I encourage everyone to read the whole document and take my summary as a secondary reference.

Full document link: EVANGELII GAUDIUM

My Personal Reflection on Four Principles to Build a People in Peace, Justice and Fraternity

            In His exhortation, Pope Francis offers various proposals to find the joy of the Gospel. In the social dimension of evangelization, he proposes four principles to build a people in peace, justice, and fraternity. These principles have inspired me to think of my future ministry.

            Proclaiming the Gospel, I will be full of joy if the results of my works are immediately seen. In contrast, there may be discouragement if the results come too slowly, especially if the results are hidden while challenges, hardships, and sufferings are many. As a result, I may be rushing and decide to take a shortcut to gain the results more quickly. However, it is said that “easy come, easy go.” Nonetheless, time is the condition for everything to be mature and to achieve the fullness. The first principle Pope Francis proposes, “time is greater than space,” reminds me to be patient and hopeful and to let my work of evangelization gradually bear fruits. This principle will be my motivation whenever I feel my effort is fruitless.

            In addition, one of the challenges of evangelization is diversity of the people. They are different from me as well as from one another, so the conflicts are unavoidable. In the exhortation, the Pope emphasizes the role of unity which is the key to solve the conflicts. That is, if I make more people become in union with Christ, the conflicts will disappear as a result. Practically, I have to first remove the causes of conflicts in myself, such as hatred, jealousy, laziness, and so on. Second, I need to show my respect, my love, and my goodwill to the ones I evangelize so that they may accept me and listen to my proclamation. If I really want to become a peacemaker, but people do not accept me, it will be very hard to solve any conflicts. Third, I never forget to rely on the grace of God with which I can do everything. The Pope indicates that “the unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity” (230).

            To sum up, the words of Pope Francis foster me to bring joy to all the world. Although there are many challenges, being patient and relying on God, my works will be fruitful.

I Shall Be with You – A Reflection on Exodus

Crossing the Red Sea

If someone is a big fan of Star Wars, he or she may know the quote “May the force be with you!” It is repeated a number of times in the movies whenever the characters wish their companion a good luck as he or she faces challenges, especially in battles. If we replace “force” with “Lord,” we will see something very familiar with. In the beginning of every Mass, right after the cross sign, the celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” Actually, Christians hear these words very often. These words are not simply repeated by chance but because they are significantly meaningful. Thus, in this homily, I would like to reflect on the book of Exodus to shed light on the significance of these words.

Briefly, Exodus narrates that God uses his powerful hands to save the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt and establishes the covenant with them. Readers can easily realize the presence of God in every event of Exodus from beginning to the end. In particular, by the providence of God the infant Moses was saved from the persecution of Pharaoh. God chooses him to lead Israelites out of Egypt. God fights Egyptians for Israelites. God gives them the covenant. God goes with them in the wilderness and grants them water and food. God takes care of them everything. The only thing He asks the Israelites is fidelity to Him.

In the narrative of the call of Moses at the burning bushes in the wilderness, when God wants to choose Moses to deliver Israelites from Egypt, Moses tries to refuse that mission for many reasons. Moses’ misgiving is reasonable because he had to escape from Egypt to Midian, but God wants to send him to Pharaoh. It seems like putting Moses to death. We also find similar challenges in the missions of the prophets. For example, God sends Nathan to rebuke David because of his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah; or John Baptist was sent to criticize Herod for his relationship with his brother’s wife. Relating to Christians, all baptized receive the offices of priest, prophet, and king in baptism. Thus, they also have to face the contemporary challenges when acting in these offices. Like Moses, they may be discouraged.

However, God said to Moses, “I shall be with you” (Ex 3:12). This affirmation gets rid of all doubt and fear because “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cr 12:9). It is important and necessary to be aware that human beings are weak and that “the Lord is our strength” (Ex 15:2). Therefore, insofar as God is with us, what should we fear? Thus, never fear, or doubt, or be discouraged because of anything; instead, trust in God and His providence.

Furthermore, although no matter how much we are sinful, God always wills to be with us, He lets us freely respond to His grace. The book of Exodus tells us the development of relationship between God and Moses. At first, Moses seems unwilling to do God’s mission. Later on, he enters an intimate relationship with God. “The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a person speaks to a friend” (Ex 33:11). Therefore, we are not only aware of the presence of God in our lives, but we also actively open our hearts to receive the love of God and become intimate with Him. Practically, relational prayer is an essential means to come closer to God, especially in the Eucharist. In addition, because God is holy, living a holy life will deepen the relationship. Holiness in Christianity is equal to love.

Finally, be intimate with God and unceasingly deepen the communion with Him so that no enemy can harm us. Challenges, hardships, and sufferings are unavoidable in Christian life as well as life in general, but do not fear because “I shall be with you” says the LORD.

Covid-19 Pandemic or Punishment

           In recent two month, the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the world. As updated in April 1, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 186,101 cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., in which 3,603 cases have died.[1] Many Christians perhaps are thinking that this difficult situation is a punishment. Whether this perspective is the case or not, we must properly understand what God’s punishment means to recognize what God is telling us in this situation.

            This devotion is not claiming the Covid-19 pandemic is a punishment, but trying to give the meaning of punishment according to the Church’s teaching. Every suffering in any sort could be considered as a punishment. Thus, when the number of people infected by Corona virus has been increasing rapidly, people easily relate this situation to God’s punishment. If it is the case, the punishment is definitely a consequence of sin. However, Saint Augustine teaches that God’s punishment is not to destroy but to educate and improve for a better future. Also, he strongly asserts that God never allows the evil to occur unless it makes the good. In addition, the author of Psalm also affirms that “the Lord chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over death” (Ps 118:18). In short, God’s providence never takes us away from Him, but always leads us to the union with Him.

            Therefore, if anyone should consider the Covid-19 pandemic as a punishment, he or she must recognize the call to return to God instead of misunderstanding that God is angry with the people or wants to destroy the sinful world. Thus, the first thing we are necessarily to be mindful of in this difficult time is not to despair or to be scared of but to turn our hearts to God. Especially in the time of Lenten, we are called to repent by receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist as well as by giving up the sinful ways. Because with the command of social distancing we may not able to receive the Sacraments in normal way, the Church has quickly adapted the situation by allowing substitute solutions such as online mass. Thus, we should use as much as possible the opportunities to participate in the substitute solution. The key is that as long as our hearts turn to God, the social distancing is not an obstacle at all. The second thing is that in this horrible pandemic we must be aware of our weakness in nature and unceasingly ask God for help. For, the world cannot overcome this pandemic without God. Thus, all we faithfully rely on God and never stop praying.

God of mercy, heal us and grant us peace in our soul and our body. May we never despair but always trust in Your providence, especially in this hard time. Amen

[1] “Cases in U.S.,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified April 1, 2020,

Đức khiêm tốn của người vĩ đại

Hai đức tính khiêm tốn và hiệp nghĩa dường như đối lập nhau. Quả vậy, người khiêm tốn thì không bao giờ đặt mình lên vị trí cao, không bao giờ thích những lời chúc tụng tung hô. Ngược lại, người hiệp nghĩa thì ao ước những sự lớn lao, nỗ lực để dành được những sự vinh quang, vinh dự. Như vậy, có phải rằng người khiêm tốn thì không thể trở nên hiệp nghĩa; hay ngược lại, người hiệp nghĩa không thể là người khiêm tốn. Tuy nhiên, nếu hiểu hai nhân đức một cách chính xác thì chúng ta có thể nhận ra rằng hai nhân đức này không những không loại trừ nhau mà còn có thể kết hợp với nhau để làm cho con người nên hoàn hảo hơn.

Tôi đã nghiên cứu và viết một tiểu luận về đề tài này bằng tiếng Anh, vì thế trong bài viết này, tôi chỉ tóm tắt ý tưởng chính. Các bạn có thể tham khảo bài tiểu luận của tôi với tiêu đề “One can be both magnanimous and humble.”

Trong luân lý Ki tô giáo, có hai loại đam mê. Loại thứ nhất là những đam mê hướng đến những điều tốt đẹp bình thường, ví dụ như, khi nhận được một lời khen thì chúng ta vui hay khi bị phê phán thì chúng ta buồn. Loại thứ hai cũng hướng đến những điều tốt đẹp nhưng có nhiều thách thức hơn để đạt được nó. Ví dụ, khi phải đối mặt với kẻ thù, có người thì sợ hãi, có người thì dám đương đầu. Khiêm tốn và hiệp nghĩa cùng tác động lên một chủ thể đó là sự đam mê hướng đến những điều thiện hảo loại thứ hai.

Sự khác nhau giữa hai nhân đức là: Người khiêm tốn thấy mình ít xứng đáng và nhận mình ít xứng đáng; ngược lại, người hào hiệp thấy mình nhiều xứng đáng và nhận mình xứng đáng nhiều. Tuy vậy, cả hai đều tuyên bố đúng với những gì họ có. Nghĩa là người khiêm tốn không hề nhu nhược và người vĩ đại thì không hề kiêu ngạo.

Thánh Tô ma Aquino lập luận một người có thể có cả hai nhân đức trên khi xét trên hai khía cạnh khác nhau. Ở khía cạnh bản tính con người, chúng ta phải khiêm tốn thừa nhận sự yếu đuối trong bản tính của chúng ta. Vì Chúa tạo dựng con người từ cát bụi và con người sẽ trở về cát bụi. Tuy nhiên, con người lại được Thiên Chúa tặng ban cho phẩm giá cao quý và ban cho trở nên con cái Người trong Đức Ki tô. Vì thế, xét về khía cạnh ân sủng, con người được gọi để trở nên vĩ đại. Và sự vĩ đại thực sự là được kết hợp với Ba Ngôi Thiên Chúa. Như vậy, một người dù tài giỏi đến mấy thì cũng phải nhận ra những sự yếu đuối trong bản tính của mình. Đồng thời, họ cũng phải nhìn nhận những tài năng của mình được tặng ban từ Thiên Chúa, và sử dụng tài năng đó để trở nên vĩ đại. Như cha An tôn, phụ trách đan viện Xi tô tại California, đã quả quyết rằng: “Không phải vì tôi giỏi nên Chúa chọn tôi, nhưng vì Chúa chọn tôi nên tôi giỏi.”

Trong một góc nhìn khác, hai nhân đức cộng tác với nhau để là con người nên hoàn hảo. Cụ thể, đức khiêm nhường sẽ gìn giữ người hiệp nghĩa khỏi sự kiêu ngạo. Và cũng vậy, đức hào hiệp giữ cho người khiêm nhường không bị nhu nhược. Người có cả hai nhân đức này sẽ luôn luôn là chính mình. Họ không bao giờ nhìn nhận bản thân nhiều hơn hay ít hơn cái mà họ là.

One can be both magnanimous and humble

Thomas Aquinas

Essentially, human beings in their very nature unceasingly desire the good. Thus, the good seems to become the goal, the purpose, and the end of human beings. Accordingly, it is very important to conceive rightly the true good and the proper means to the true good. In the era of the ancient world, Aristotle, the Hellenic philosopher with great timeless notions, reasonably pointed out that happiness is the highest good. Also, he states “happiness is a certain sort of activity of the soul in accord with virtue.”[1] Thus, virtues are necessary conditions for the soul to function well so that men can obtain the ultimate good. There are two types of virtues, the virtues of character and the virtues of mind. Among the virtues of character, magnanimity is the greatest. This virtue makes men worthy of great things. Nevertheless, in the Catholic tradition, many teachings, such as the Rule of Saint Benedict, encourage the practice of humility, which literally means “becoming little.” Consequently, someone may rapidly judge that men cannot attain both virtues and that one or the other of them must be removed from the list of the virtues. However, it should be proved that this is not the case. That is, magnanimity and humility are necessarily examined in reason and faith to provide the evidence by which we can persuasively claim that magnanimity and humility in their proper senses indeed not only have no contraries but also that they cooperate with one another to set a safe limitation for the irascible appetites.

First of all, it is necessary to specify each virtue in its very concept so that the later arguments can make more sense. Now let us begin by discussing magnanimity in referring to Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Simply, there are four states corresponding to magnanimity, such as pusillanimity, vainglory, and modesty. These states can be distinguished in the way people claim their worthiness. In more detail, pusillanimous people claim less while they deserve more. In contrast, vainglorious people claim more while they deserve less. Modest people deserve less and claim less. In a greater state, magnanimous people deserve much and claim much. Therefore, Aristotle states that magnanimity is concerned with great things.[2] Also, he points out that honor is the greatest external good to award the magnanimous person.[3] Hence, magnanimous people are those seeking the honor in the right reason.

Saint Thomas puts this virtue into the subcategory of fortitude due to its mode. Fortitude perfects the irascible appetite which is concerned with the arduous good. More particularly, when one faces a tough challenge, fortitude will lessen the fear and strengthen the daring. Thus, because magnanimity considers honor as its proper object, the honor must contain “the aspect of something great or difficult.”[4] This feature distinguishes magnanimity from vainglory because vainglorious people may not need to struggle with any worthy challenges to achieve the honor. In contrast, to be worthy of the honor, magnanimous people have to attempt with all their capacities; they are even willing to “[face] dangers in a great cause.”[5] Gregory Pine emphasizes this point by quoting from Saint Thomas: “The magnanimous man is not one who seeks out great honors, but one who seeks out the great goods of the soul, great virtues, or, even better, one who accomplishes great virtuous acts.”[6] Hence, magnanimous people do not only merely desire to acquire great things but also eagerly desire to do great acts.

Now, we need to clarify whether magnanimity is a virtue because as noted in the discussion above, magnanimity seems at the extreme degree which according to Aristotle is not a virtue. In Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas clearly specifies why magnanimity is the mean. Precisely, “in point of quantity” it is an extreme because men of this virtue always seek the greatest. However, it is the mean “in the matter of becomingness” because even though men of this virtue always seek the greatest, they never claim more than what they are worth.[7] Hence, magnanimous people indeed tend to the greatest things with right reason, so it must be a virtue.

Subsequently, let us begin the discussion about some attributes of humility by talking about pride, its opposite. Pride refers to excessive self-esteem or self-love. It is one of the seven capital sins. Proud people often exalt themselves and enjoy the praising of others although they are not worthy. In contrast, humility is simply understood as “the notion of a praiseworthy self-abasement to the lowest place.”[8] Thus, a humble man tends to ignore compliments or honors from others. He may do great things without expecting the acknowledgement of others. In his twelve steps in the practice of humility, Saint Benedict points out typical attributes of humility. In detail, a humble man will give up his own will to obey the order of the authority. He is sincere to face his weakness. He often keeps silent, speaks gently if he must say something, and never is ready to laugh. A truly humble man makes himself smallest not just in his appearance but in his heart. Instinctively, pride seems to have the character of either magnanimity or vainglory while humility seems to have the character of either modesty or pusillanimity. Because pride is a vice, it must be equivalent to vainglory. And, somehow humility must belong to the category of modesty so that it is not a vice.

With some ideas of humility, we may conceive that humility restrains the concupiscible appetite. It seems more obvious when Saint Thomas puts humility under the subcategory of temperance, namely “modesty.” He states that the virtue of humility is “to temper and restrain the mind, lest it tend to high things immoderately.”[9] However, it is not the case because the subject of this virtue is not the concupiscible appetite. Precisely, humility sets abound the movements of hope which direct human beings to attempt to obtain the difficult good. Since hope and despair are an opposite pair of the irascible appetites, humility is the virtue rightly moderating the irascible faculties. Hence, humility belongs to the category of temperance because of its mode which suppresses human passions from going over the thresholds. However, its function takes the irascible appetite as the proper subject.

Additionally, I would like to provide the arguments to clarify why humility is a virtue. It sounds as if the notion of lowering oneself is a form of deficiency which is not considered a virtue according to Aristotle. Despite the fact that Aristotle has no discussion on humility, from my point of view, I see humility could be the mean between excess and deficiency. As I have discussed above, the excess of humility is pride which shares some attributes with vainglory. And, the deficiency, as St. Thomas cites from Psalms, is that one “[does not understand] his honor, compares himself to senseless beasts, and becomes like to them.”[10] The point here is that both in the excess and the deficiency one reasons wrongly about what he is and what he deserves. However, a truly humble man will not deny what he is and sincerely face it. Thus, humility may be equivalent to modesty that corresponds to magnanimity as mentioned above. Precisely, a humble one with right reason knows that he deserves little, so he claims little. Hence, humility is a virtue according to Aristotle. Moreover, in St. Thomas’s reason, the human passions can move in two directions. In detail, the passion of hope moves toward the difficult good while the passion of despair moves away from the good. Both directions need something to rightly moderate themselves so that they do not become excessive. As a result, humility is necessary to perfect the passion of hope while magnanimity is necessary to perfect the passion of despair. Hence, no doubt humility is a proper virtue.

Up to this point, I just have given the reason why both magnanimity and humility are virtues. And if both are established on right reason, they cannot be contrary one to the other.[11] However, someone may wonder that if these two virtues seem contrary to one another, it would seem impossible for a person to have both virtues. In other words, if one is humble, then he cannot be magnanimous. In particular, St. Benedict teaches that “every exaltation is a kind of pride”[12] while Aristotle states “magnanimity seems to be concerned with great things.”[13] Therefore, magnanimity may be considered as a kind of pride, which is the opposite of humility. Truly, as we discussed earlier, it is obvious that the operation of these two virtues are contrary in their primary movements.[14] Precisely, humility restrains the appetite while magnanimity encourages the appetite. Consequently, if their functions contradict one another, either of them may not be a virtue.

Nevertheless, it can be proved that magnanimity and humility do not contradict each other; moreover, human passions need both to be in cooperation in order to be perfected. In the light of faith, Saint Thomas points out that there is no real contradiction between these two virtues because “they proceed according to different considerations.”[15] Precisely, on the one hand, if a man is considered with the gifts of God, he can regard himself worthy of doing great things.[16] Indeed, the book of Genesis affirms that human beings are created in the image of God. They are endowed with intellect and will, so they have freedom to decide to act or not to act. And human beings are called to be united with God in his glory. Hence, the virtue of magnanimity will help human beings complete the vocation from God to obtain the ultimate honor that is to be in communion with God. On the other hand, in the consideration of the weakness in human nature, all human beings must humble themselves.[17] Men must know that God made them out of dust to which men will return after death. Also, the Church teaches that although the sacrament of baptism purifies us from all sins, the weakness of human nature still continues to direct men to evil. Thus, it is right for men to regard themselves humble considering the weakness of human nature. Hence, because a man can be both humble and magnanimous at the same time in different considerations, their opposition, mentioned above, is not real.

Furthermore, both virtues are necessary for human passions. As we discussed above, although magnanimity and humility belong to different categories due to their modes, they act on the same subject, which is the irascible appetite. The directions of each are opposite to one another. This may make someone believe at first glance that each of the virtues intends to prevent the other from doing its functions. However, it is not the case because with the right reason they set a safe boundary for one another. St. Thomas asserts that “humility restrains the appetite from aiming at great things against right reason: while magnanimity urges the mind to great things in accord with right reason.”[18] More particularly, magnanimity keeps a humble person from being pusillanimous. In turn, humility keeps a magnanimous person from being vainglorious. Here we can imagine that humility sets the lower threshold while magnanimity sets the upper threshold. As a result, the human appetites never go toward the excess or the deficiency. Hence, magnanimity does not remove the function of humility, but magnanimity cooperates with humility to establish a “safe zone” (a modern phrase, one might say, with Aristotelian sense) in which the irascible appetites rightly move.

Finally, as an illustration, I will describe how one can be both humble and magnanimous when he practices the virtue of humility according to the Rule of St. Benedict. In the twelve steps of humility, obedience is the first. Obedience here is not a form of a punishment because it comes from the heart, an intrinsic principle but not from outside of himself, an extrinsic principle. To be obedient from inside, one acknowledges his deficiency before the greatness of God, and his lower degree before the superior. Above all, this obedience is not in vain because one “will quickly arrive at the perfect love of God.”[19] Besides, to stay in the love of God and to be united with Him are truly the ultimate honor. Hence, obeying the right authority is a proper way to be worthy of that honor, as St. Benedict affirms when he says, “they are so confident in their expectation of reward from God.”[20]

In conclusion, we acknowledge that magnanimity and humility by nature move human appetites in opposite directions. And, although St. Thomas categorizes them into different groups due to their modes, their functions properly impact the same subject, the irascible faculties. In truth, there is not any real contradiction between them because one is considered with the gifts of God, and the other is considered with the deficiency in human nature. Moreover, these virtues simultaneously act on the irascible appetite to perfect it by setting a safe boundary. Hence, one can desire the great honor so that he does not waste the gifts of God; also, he must humble himself so that he does not forget his weak nature.

[1] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Terence Irwin (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2007), 12.

[2] Aristotle, 56.

[3] Aristotle, 57.

[4] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, art. 1, accessed April 5, 2019,

[5] Aristotle, 58.

[6] Gregory Pine, Magnanimity and Humility According to St. Thomas Aquinas, The Thomist 82, no. 2 (April 2018), 269.

[7] St. Thomas Aquinas, art. 3,

[8] St. Thomas Aquinas, art. 1,

[9] St. Thomas, art. 1,

[10] St. Thomas, art. 1,

[11] Pine, 285.

[12] St. Benedict, RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, trans. Timothy Fry (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1982), 32.

[13] Aristotle, 56.

[14] Pine 279

[15] St. Thomas, art. 3,

[16] St. Thomas, art. 3,

[17] St. Thomas, art. 3,

[18] St. Thomas, art. 1,

[19] St. Benedict, 38.

[20] St. Benedict, 35.

Sự Hy Sinh như Của Lễ

Là người Công giáo có lẽ chúng ta khá quen thuộc với cụm từ “hy lễ” hay “của lễ hy sinh.” Trong Thánh lễ sau khi kết thúc phần dâng lễ vật, linh mục mời gọi cộng đoàn cùng cầu nguyện để “hy lễ của tôi và cũng là của anh chị em được Thiên Chúa là Cha Toàn năng chấp nhận.” Theo truyền thống của tu viện dòng Biển Đức tại Latrobe, tiểu bang Pennsylvania, Hoa Kỳ, mọi thành viên trong nhà dòng sẽ chọn cho mình một sự hy sinh nào đó để thực hiện trong 40 ngày Mùa Chay. Có thể nói “hy sinh” xuất hiện mọi nơi trong đời sống của Ki tô hữu. Bởi thế, khi Mùa Chay chỉ còn một ngày nữa là bắt đầu và trong khi tôi đang cầu nguyện để tìm cho mình một việc hy sinh nào đó để thực hiện trong suốt Mùa Chay Thánh, tôi có một vài suy nghĩ cá nhân về chữ “hy sinh.”

Ý nghĩa đầu tiên của “hy sinh” là chết. Ví dụ như các anh hùng liệt sỹ chết trong chiến tranh thì chúng ta nói là các anh đã hy sinh. Ý nghĩa thứ hai không phải là chết nhưng là từ bỏ một thứ gì đó rất quan trọng, rất giá trị vì một lợi ích tốt đẹp nào đó. Khi ta nói “hy sinh đời bố củng cố đời con” không có nghĩa là người bố phải chết về mặt thể lý. Nhưng thay vào đó, nó có nghĩa là người bố từ bỏ những thứ quan trọng của chính mình để chăm lo cho tương lai người con. Cụ thể, người bố có thể hy sinh sức khỏe để kiếm tiền nuôi con ăn học. Cả hai ý nghĩa đều có thể thấy người hy sinh sẽ phải chịu một mất mát hay một thiệt hại nào đó. Nếu sự hy sinh là tự nguyện và vì một mục đích cao cả, thì sự hy sinh đó là xứng đáng và nên làm. Hy sinh còn có thể có những ý nghĩa khác, nhưng tôi chỉ muốn dựa vào hai ý nghĩa trên để làm nền cho những ý tưởng của tôi.

Trong đời sống đức tin, tôi sử dụng định nghĩa hy sinh chết đối với tội lỗi hay từ bỏ con đường tội lỗi. Điểm đầu tiên, sự hy sinh sẽ đem lại lợi ích cho chính bản thân người hy sinh. Ai cũng đồng ý rằng tội là điều xấu không nên làm nhưng vẫn phạm tội. Vì sao vậy? Vì hành vi phạm tội có thể mang đến sự thỏa mãn về thân xác, cái mà nhiều người lầm tưởng đó là cùng đích của cuộc đời. Ai cũng biết nói dối, lừa gạt là điều xấu, nhưng nhiều người vẫn thường xuyên làm bởi vì sự lừa gạt có thể đem về cho họ sự tán dương, tiền bạc, hay công danh. Những điều này thực sự làm thỏa mãn các giác quan nên nó lôi kéo con người phạm tội. Vì con người là “thân xác” nên yếu đuối, nhưng con người cũng là “linh hồn” (lý trí) nên có khả năng phân biệt thiện ác. Vì thế, để chết cho tội lỗi thì Ki tô hữu phải sống theo sự hướng dẫn của lý trí thay vì để cho đam mê thể xác điều khiển. Người hy sinh những lạc thú của thân xác chắc chắn sẽ phải chịu những đau đớn thực sự. Tuy nhiên, những đau đớn đó không thể sánh được với phần thưởng cho sự từ bỏ tội lỗi. Phần thưởng đó là chân thiện mỹ đích thực, đó là Thiên Chúa.

Bên cạnh những ích lợi cá nhân, người hy sinh còn có khả năng đem ơn phúc cho những người khác. Hãy nhìn gương Chúa Giê su, Ngài đã hy sinh mạng sống mình để đem ơn cứu độ cho nhân loại. Nếu chúng ta muốn bước theo Chúa Giê su, thì chúng ta cũng phải hy sinh mạng sống mình cho anh em. Sự hy sinh mạng sống ở đây không có nghĩa là chết trên thập giá như Chúa Giê su đã làm cách đây hơn hai ngàn năm nhưng là chết cho tội lỗi bằng việc hy sinh hãm mình. Nếu mỗi ngày chúng ta dành một vài phút để cầu nguyện cho anh chị em thì đó cũng là một sự hy sinh hãm mình. Nếu mỗi ngày chúng ta từ bỏ một tính xấu thì thay vì gây đau khổ cho anh chị em xung quanh, chúng ta đem cho họ niềm vui. Như vậy, sự hy sinh cá nhân không chỉ mang phúc lành cho người thực hiện nó nhưng còn cho cả mọi người xung quanh.

Đến đây chúng ta có thể nhìn thấy những điều tốt đẹp mà sự hy sinh mang lại. Tuy nhiên để thực hành điều đó trong cuộc sống hàng ngày không phải điều đơn giản. Đây là một cuộc chiến đấu liên lỉ không chỉ trong 40 ngày mùa chay nhưng là suốt cuộc đời. Nó quả thật rất khó vì những đam mê của thân xác như một tính tự nhiên của con người. Lý trí phải chiến đấu để vượt qua những cám dỗ của thân xác. Một lý trí không được hướng dẫn cách đúng đắn rất dễ trở nên yếu đuối và chiều theo ước muốn của thân xác. Chính vì vậy, nếu ai đó chỉ dựa vào sức bản thân mà không cậy nhờ ơn Thiên Chúa thì khó lòng mà thi hành sự hy sinh. Bởi thế, chúng ta cần nhìn nhận sự yếu đuối tự bản tính để không ngừng xin ơn trợ giúp của Thiên Chúa. Với một đời sống cầu nguyện sốt sắng tín hữu sẽ trở nên can đảm để thi hành sự hy sinh. Quả thật, đối với con người có những thứ là không thể còn đối với Thiên Chúa thì không có gì là không thể (Lc 1, 37).

Như vậy sự hy sinh là chết cho tội lỗi để đem ơn phúc cho không những người hy sinh mà còn những người xung quanh. Mặc dù hy sinh đem lại nhiều ơn phúc nhưng để thực thi trong đời sống thì không đơn giản. Bởi thế, các tín hữu cần cậy dựa vào sự nâng đỡ của Thiên Chúa, Ngài sẽ ban đủ ơn cho chúng ta để chúng ta có thể can đảm hy sinh như Chúa Giê su đã hy sinh cả mạng sống cho chúng ta.

Tại sao các Tông đồ sợ không dám hỏi Chúa?

Mấy ngày trước đây tôi cùng hai thầy chủng viện thánh Vinh-sơn được đến thăm những người vô gia cư ở thị trấn Latrobe. Chúng tôi đã cùng nhau chia sẻ Lời Chúa của Chúa nhật tuần 25 thường niên năm B. Trong bài Tin mừng theo thánh Mac-cô chương 9 câu 30 đến câu 37, Chúa Giê-su mạc khải cho các môn đệ biết Ngài phải chịu chết sau ba ngày sẽ sống lại. Mặc dù các ông không hiểu điều Chúa muốn nói, nhưng không ai dám hỏi. Một người vô gia cư đã đặt câu hỏi tại sao các ông không hỏi Chúa cho rõ ràng, mà lại để cái thắc mắc đó trong lòng. Đã có một số cách giải thích khác nhau được chia Continue reading “Tại sao các Tông đồ sợ không dám hỏi Chúa?”

Cuộc đời Chúa Giê su trong Tin Mừng Gioan

Ngôi Lời đã trở nên người phàm và cư ngụ giữa chúng ta” (Ga 1,14). Trong lời tựa khi mở đầu tin mừng thánh Gioan đã dùng danh từ Ngôi Lời để nói Đức Giê-su chính là Lời của Thiên Chúa đã mặc lấy thân xác con người và sống giữa chúng ta. Vì thế, Thiên Chúa mà chúng ta tôn thờ không phải là một Đấng ở chốn xa vời Continue reading “Cuộc đời Chúa Giê su trong Tin Mừng Gioan”