On Sunday 3rd November 2019, Bishop Nicholas Hudson celebrated Mass at the Vietnamese chaplaincy in London which is based at the Church of the Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Bow Common. The Mass was offered for the repose of the souls of the 39 Vietnamese people who died in the back of a lorry in Essex in October 2019.
In his introduction to the Mass, Bishop Nicholas offered prayers for all those individuals who had been personally affected by this tragedy.
‘As we offer Mass for them we pray for all who mourn them. We pray for those who fear their relations were among the dead. We pray for the emergency services who recovered their bodies. Human trafficking is an abominable crime which needs to be eradicated. We pray for those who commit such crimes that they might, as a result of such a tragedy, have a change of heart.’
In his homily, Bishop Nicholas spoke about the victims who died in the lorry, and reminded those listening that each one of those victims is known to God.
‘Each of them was a unique human being known eternally to God. We know almost none of their names; yet each one them is known to God. God knows their parents, their brothers and sisters, their dearest friends who will be bereaved once their identities are confirmed. He knows all those families in Vietnam who fear it is their child, their sibling, who perished in that lorry.’
He also offered more prayers for the victims, their families, emergency services and for the Vietnamese community living in the U.K.
‘We ask the Lord to forgive any sins they may have committed in this life; and to grant them now eternal rest; as we also pray for all who mourn them; for all the members of the emergency services who were so deeply, and understandably, affected by the sad, shocking discovery of so many dead; and we pray for ourselves; for this community; for all Vietnamese living in the U.K. We ask the Lord to be close to each one of them at this time.’
Bishop Nicholas drew messages of consolation from the readings of the day.
‘The readings… encourage us to pray Jesus be close to us at this time, ‘make his home in us’ indeed. Jesus coming to us is the key, in fact, to understanding this story of Zacchaeus which we know so well. There are two things we should notice in this story: that Zacchaeus wishes to see Jesus and Jesus chooses to go to him.’
‘Alongside this story we are given these words from the Book of Wisdom, ‘Your imperishable spirit is in all.’… God puts his spirit into every human being; and that spirit is an imperishable spirit, which lives on forever. It is our faith, our Catholic faith, that every man, woman and child is made in the image and likeness of God. The God who made us in in his image says to the heart of every person, ‘I want to stay with you; I want to stay at your house tonight.’ Not just to be with us but to suffer with us. It was to help us believe this that God chose to come among us in the person of Jesus.
‘It was to reassure, console and encourage human life that God, who had made this world, took on himself human life… Because he knew that death, for any of us, is the thing that most frightens us. He chose to die the cruellest kind of death so that we can always say, whatever happens to us, Jesus died with us.’
Bishop Nicholas concluded his homily with the assertion that Jesus was present with those who died in the back of the lorry.
‘Our faith tells us he was present to, he suffered with, those who died in the container that night. You could even say, ‘he died with them’; as he will have been there to receive them on the other side of death… All we need to say, all we need to find room for in our hearts, is to make the same act of faith as Zacchaeus and say: ‘Lord, let us see your face; come to be with us this day, especially with those who suffer most. Comfort those who mourn; grant deep eternal rest to all who died that day; and give strength to our nation, our community in this hour of deep grief.’
The full text of Bishop Nicholas’ homily is available here.
Published: 4th November 2019