“Out of all God’s creation, you and I are His masterpiece…”

A crowd gathers outside on the steps of Church of the Holy Martyrs to watch a traditional dragon dance for the holiday of Tet; Bishop Johnston fed one of the dragons an envelope dangling off a stick for good luck. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

Megan Marley

“The first obligation we have at the beginning of any New Year, at the beginning of this New Year, is to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God for His abundant love in creating us and all that exists,” said Bishop James Johnston January 25 to the Vietnamese-American community packing the pews for a special Mass on Tet at Church of the Holy Martyrs in Kansas City.

Tet is the Oriental celebration of the lunar New Year and of the arrival of Spring, which the community celebrates with a festive Mass on the Saturday closest to the holiday—a Saturday (Jan. 25) this year, and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

To celebrate, the church was decorated with bushy yellow chrysanthemums and flowering apricot branches bearing artificial firecrackers that were ‘set off’ at the end of Mass. Members of the Vietnamese Eucharist Youth Movement served as an honor guard for the procession in and out of Mass, and children in traditional ao dai dress brought forward the bread and wine for consecration, along with a presentation of the gifts of first harvest. Bishop also distributed lucky red envelopes with $1 bills to the children and any extras to adults, and fed another red envelope to one of the dragons in the dragon dance outdoors after Mass for good luck. Once the dragon was fed, all hurried back in from the cold to partake of a social with games and Vietnamese foods in the church’s basement.

In his homily, Bishop Johnston noted the moving beauty of art is a microcosm of the wonder to be found in God’s creation.

“Just as artists and composers enrich our lives with beauty, we Christians marvel with gratitude at all the masterpieces that God has created. We see them in nature, and in the cosmos in which we live—things both great, and things very small,” he said.

“Out of all God’s creation, you and I are his masterpiece—more than any other work of God, we can be like God in our capacity to know and believe and in our choices,” Johnston continued, noting gratitude for all God’s gifts should mark celebration of the New Year.

He said that, like the first reading of the creation from Genesis, the second reading on the conversion of St. Paul and the Gospel reading of the commissioning of the disciples can be viewed as sort of ‘creation stories’.

Bishop Johnston distributed lucky red envelopes with $1 inside to all the children present for the Mass celebrating the Vietnamese holiday of Tet. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

“In St. Paul’s case, God’s merciful love brought about a kind of death and resurrection moment—he was blinded by God, so that he could see; he was paralyzed, so he could be free; he was humbled, so that he could be made strong,” said the bishop.

“St Paul was recreated by Jesus in his love, in this moment of creation…Jesus came into the world to separate light from the darkness in our lives too, not just in the universe but in the hearts of every person.”

He added: “When we allow Jesus into our lives, he begins this great reordering…we are recreated too, much like St. Paul was on the road to Damascus.”

“Conscious of how nature renews and purifies itself each year, let us pray for the blessings of renewal and purification that God wants for each of us. Let us ask for and seek these blessings, and be ready to receive these blessings from God,” Johnston said.

Being renewed in Christ, we are also commissioned to share the Gospel.

“Let us also be God’s co-workers, disciples who carry the Good News of the Gospel into the chaos and despair of the world…God’s agents who participate in the world’s renewal by our love for God and our love for one another,” he concluded.


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October 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph