By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — As the parish does every year for the celebration of their culture’s biggest holiday, Church of the Holy Martyrs put the “celebrate” in the celebration of Mass.
Coming just slightly earlier this year, the holiday of Tet, or the lunar new year, had the diocese’s personal parish for Vietnamese-American Catholics pulling out all the stops and welcoming Bishop Robert W. Finn to the Jan. 21 festivities that began, of course, with Mass.
The church once again jammed to standing room only, parish pastor Father Joseph Phan Trong Hanh thanked Bishop Finn for the honor of his presence.
“Your presence shows to us your care and your love for us,” Father Joseph said. “Please accept our gratitude and, ‘Happy New Year.’”
In his homily, Bishop Finn not only expressed his gratitude for the invitation to celebrate, but also thanked the parish for beginning its celebration, as it does every year, by placing God at the center with the celebration of Mass.
“How fitting it is once again to initiate this new year thanking Almighty God for his gifts and graces, and humbly but confidently asking his blessings,” Bishop Finn said.
As in the story of creation in Genesis, which was the first reading at the Mass, Bishop Finn told the congregation that “all things begin and end with God.”
“Nothing comes to be without his love and power,” Bishop Finn said.
“We also acknowledge the providence of God which has kept us going even in the difficult or sad moments we may have experienced in the past year,” the bishop said.
Bishop Finn also told the congregation that, as St. Paul said in the day’s second reading, conversion is a continuing process.
“The need for interior conversion is a constant part of our following of Christ,” he said.
“Time moves by quickly, and we must always be prepared to give God an account of our lives,” Bishop Finn said.
“This reality, however, does not cause us to lose hope,” he said. “God is with us. God truly loves us and is always ready to give us the grace we need to grow in holiness. Nothing that the coming year brings will be impossible because he remains always with us.”
The Gospel for the day, the bishop said, was especially meaningful to him because it includes Bishop Finn’s episcopal motto: “Seek first the Kingdom of God.”
“I chose this saying from Sacred Scripture because this was a favorite passage of my mother,” Bishop Finn said.
“We know that there are many uncertainties in life, but if we seek first and above all to do God’s will and to follow his plan for us, then everything else will find its rightful place,” he said. “If we seek to put God first in our lives, everything else will work out for us.”
Bishop Finn said he joined the prayers of the congregation “as faithful sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father (to) place all our gratitude and prayers in his hands.”
“May Mary, our mother, and the angels and saints help to preserve us in faith, hope and love,” he said.
“May God bless each of you abundantly in the new year.”