Sunday, January 22, 2023
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of La Vang Vietnamese Mission in Hallandale Beach for their celebration of Tet, the new year, Jan. 22, 2023.
Chuc mung nam mo-i. Many this year are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit; but the Vietnamese are celebrating the Year of the Cat. You can learn so much on the internet, but it seems that no one really knows: Some say the word in Chinese for “rabbit” sounds a bit like the word in Vietnamese for “cat”; others say that the rabbit is a wild animal that people eat but cat is a household friend, a pet that keeps the rats away. Whether it’s the rabbit or the cat, the important thing is that we celebrate Tet.
We begin a new year – we look to the past, to our ancestors with gratitude for their sacrifices, for who they were and are for us. Despite persecutions and hardships, both past and present, the Vietnamese people were “good soil” in which the seed of the Gospel could be planted. The seed of the Gospel took root in Vietnam and was made more fruitful through the blood of her martyrs for the faith, like that of St. Andrew Dung Lac and his companions, as well as through the witness of bishops, priests and baptized faithful over the years. We especially hold dear and venerate the memory of the venerable Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, who like Jesus, was a prophet without honor in his own native land. He was a great witness to the hope of the Gospel, a hope that has a human face – the face of Jesus, the hope that will never disappoint.
And so, as we begin a New Year, we want to celebrate the present with enthusiasm. For today is the first day of the rest of our lives – we seek to renew and/or strengthen family ties or friendships, we wish to repair and atone for any divisions or hurts. This is why we celebrate the Mass, the perfect sacrifice of praise to God and source of grace, renewal, and healing for God’s people. We begin the New Year at Mass in communion with God and our brothers and sisters. This a good way to begin so the year ahead will see us growing in that communion with God and one another. So, remembering the past with gratitude, celebrating the present with enthusiasm, we look forward to the future with hope. Chuc mung nam mo-i.
Today the Gospel reading places Jesus at the very beginning of his public ministry in the region of Zebulun and Naphtha, in the same Galilee of the Gentiles that Isaiah talks about in the first reading. He has a simple message: Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is a simple but comprehensive message. At the same time, we see Jesus choosing his disciples. For those first disciples — and for each one of us — being chosen is a humbling experience.
The fact of being chosen reminds us of our unworthiness, of the distance between us and God, for we all are sinners in need of redemption. But God in his mysterious ways chooses to need us to cooperate with him; he always needs someone for a mission. He invites us to bet our lives on the good news he is announcing. Our response must be obedience to the God who calls us. That is true for all of us — from the pope on down.
You know, Jesus never tells his disciples to play it safe. Rather, he challenges us: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” He challenges us to embrace the risks of fidelity.
As Pope Francis is fond of repeating, we are called to be “missionary disciples.” Missionary discipleship in the Church – whether we are as a parish priest, a catechist, head of a family or whatever task we take on as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, we should be trying to be “fishers of men,” that is, leading others to follow Christ. Christian discipleship is not about us, neither is it a matter of following this or that Christian leader. It is always about following Christ.
Christian discipleship again is not about leading others to oneself but to the Lord. It does not exalt itself or point to itself. It points to Christ. This is the point St. Paul is making in the Second Reading. Who are you for? During these times of hyper partisanship, of people dividing themselves in different camps, liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, progressive or traditional, there is one possible answer for St. Paul to the question, “Who are you for?” With St. Paul, we must answer: “I am for Christ.”
Nine years ago, after many years, the Vietnamese Catholic community in South Florida found a permanent home here. I remember well the Mass I celebrated with you in December of 2013 here in this church when I officially established Our Lady of La Vang Mission. Today I am happy to announce that in answer to a request from Father Long, and after consulting with the priests of the Presbyteral Council, I will establish this mission as a parish, a personal parish, for the Vietnamese community of South Florida. Chuc mung nam mo-i.
May Our Lady of LaVang – patroness of your parish and of your country of origin – intercede for you so that you grow in your commitment to the faith, and that love for the family, joy in the faith, devotion to the Church, and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life continue to be characteristic fruits harvested from the good soil of the Vietnamese culture in which the Gospel has taken root and grown.