Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lunar New Year

January 30, 2022
Immaculate Conception of Mary Catholic Church
Wichita Falls, Texas

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 (Vietnamese)
Psalm 71:1-2,3-4,5-6,15-17 (Vietnamese)
1st Corinthians 12:31-13:13 (Vietnamese)
Luke 4:21-30 (English)

Today, we celebrate the beginning of the lunar new year: Tet, “the Festival of the First Morning of the First Day.” I have been told that the celebration of Tet includes the cultural custom that the first visitor who a family receives in the new year is a prophetic sign of their blessings for the entire year. I am honored that you have invited me to be your first guest to your parish home of Immaculate Conception of Mary Catholic Church to inaugurate the lunar new year. I want you to know that I understand that this is an honor with a responsibility for me to be a person of good temper and morality, as a prophetic sign that the entire following year will also be filled with God’s many blessings.

Today also is the first day of the new year of my service to you as your bishop because yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of my ordination as the Bishop of Fort Worth. God has blessed me too with you as part of my family and together we pray that we might begin this new Year of the Tiger with fidelity to His call to us to be truthful, holy, and charitable to others.

Our readings today also speak of new beginnings. In the reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we hear of the revelation of our call by God. Our call, like Jeremiah’s, begins when we are conceived and brought into existence by the hand of God and given the gift of life in our mother’s womb, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” God is present to us at the beginning of our life, even before our life begins, out of His love for us which He continues to give us throughout our carrying out of His will even during difficult times and with much opposition and persecution. God is with us, so we remain faithful and not be lost to sin and evil. As we hear in the first reading, “They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you — oracle of the Lord.”

In the reading from Saint Luke’s Gospel, we hear his account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry that Jesus undertakes in obedience to the call of His Father and the mission that the Father entrusted to Him as the Messiah. We hear the revelation that Jesus is faced with anger, rejection, and opposition from the very beginning of His mission. This is even more striking because many of those who rejected Him were members of His own people, past friends, and even extended family members from Nazareth. “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”

The Gospel written in your hearts and those of your family members who worked to begin this parish speaks of your call from God and your desire for faithfulness even amidst rejection and opposition to your Catholic faith by the Communists of Vietnam and the secular culture fighting to dominate the United States of America. Sadly, the story of your deliverance from Communism included too many times the rejection and even oppression by family members and former friends who fearfully chose survival over perseverance in the faith. Yet, we begin the new year mindful that Jesus first experienced this in Nazareth, and He is with us as we experience rejection and opposition.

The end of the story in today’s Gospel is ripe for our reflection.  How can a group of people who knew Jesus as a member of their family and town of Nazareth and who drag Him to the brow of a hill to throw Him over suddenly lose sight of Him?  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that they cannot see Him for who He truly is because they are blinded by resentment, anger, fear, and sin. In their blindness, they cannot see and so Jesus walks away unseen.  To let Jesus work in our lives and to accept the Father’s will for us, we must see Him for who He is. To see Him for who He is, we must be delivered from fear and anger. Then we can pray honestly and live with integrity the words of Saint Paul, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”

We believe that the victory of His cross and resurrection will bring us all together in the communion of His love and of His truth on the last day, because not only is God present to us at the beginning, but He is also present at the end. This is the mystery that we celebrate in this Eucharist. At the celebration of the Easter Vigil where the priest blesses the new Easter Candle, the priest prays these words, “Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. To Him belongs all time and all the ages; all glory and dominion is His now and forever. Amen. By His holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.” It is that Easter light that has burned away our fear, anger, and sin that blind us. In the Easter light, we can see the Truth. We can see truly Jesus as who He is. We can see and hear the call and mission that He shares with us at the beginning of this lunar year and at the end of the year, and for all eternity.

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