Bishop celebrates Tet with call to honor God
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - The Oriental New Year is a time to recall and rejoice in God's blessing, Bishop Robert W. Finn told the congregation at the Church of the Holy Martyrs.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Young people from the Church of the Holy Martyr's unit of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society receive their New Year prosperity envelopes, each containing a $1 bill, from Bishop Robert W. Finn.
"Our response to God's goodness, St. Paul insists, must be goodness in return," he said Feb. 17 at the annual Mass celebrating Tet at the diocese's parish for the Vietnamese community.
The annual celebration, held since the late Bishop John J. Sullivan established Church of the Holy Martyrs in 1991 to serve Vietnamese immigrants and their families, is an example of how the community took a cultural holiday and turned it into a religious holiday. To the Asian culture, Tet is celebration of family, ancestors, the impending end of winter and the renewal that spring will bring.
Father Joseph Phan Trong Hanh, pastor of the parish at 78th and the Paseo, told Bishop Finn as the annual Mass began that his presence each year was deeply appreciated as a sign of the bishop's love for a special community of believers as he led the congregation in wishing their bishop a happy New Year.
"What a wonderful parish and community (God) has given us in the Church of the Holy Martyrs," Bishop Finn said in his homily.
Bishop Finn also reminded the congregation that Tet this year occurs just four days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Both are occasions for the renewal of hearts, he said.
"Our minds, our hearts and our efforts must be directed, in the words of the second reading, to 'whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious - any excellence, all that is worthy of praise,'" Bishop Finn said.
"This means for us a time of renewal that calls us to open our hearts to a true conversion to all that is good and pure and just before God," the bishop said. "For us, this is possible because of the promise of new life in the gift of Easter and Christ's resurrection."
Bishop Finn said that the "grace of Jesus Christ and the hope of redemption in him calls us together on this day to give thanks and to dedicate and renew our efforts."
"May his peace transform all human hearts so that this New Year is a year of peace in our world. How we need it," Bishop Finn said. "May this year bring unimaginable blessings upon your parish, your families and our whole diocese."
Following Communion, Bishop Finn distributed festive red envelopes containing $1 bills, first to the children then to all members of the Church of the Holy Martyrs congregation. The envelopes symbolize the New Year's wish for prosperity, health and peace.
The envelopes also symbolize God's gifts, Bishop Finn told the congregation after all had received their envelopes.
"We know that the gifts of God are spiritual gifts that we all treasure," Bishop Finn said. He urged the congregation to spread God's gifts throughout the community.
"You are a leaven in our society," Bishop Finn told the congregation. "You must go out and use the gifts God has given you to spread his message."