Tuesday, 2 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called by God through His words in the Scripture, and the centre theme of His calling to us, is for us all to have faith in Him. In the first reading, God spoke to His people through Jeremiah, His prophet, telling them the message of hope in the midst of hopelessness and darkness. He told them that He would restore them to their previous glory and grace, and He would remove from them the shame of their captivity and exile.

This was given in the context that the people of God had long disobeyed Him and preferred to forge their own path, worshipping pagan idols and gods, and committed all sorts of wicked deeds in His sight. They have lost faith in Him, and they have wavered many times, unable to commit themselves to Him. They fell into sin and thus had to endure the consequences of their disobedience.

And yet God still wanted to show them mercy, extending His hands to them and wanting to welcome them back into His embrace. Nevertheless, all of these would come to naught if the same people refused to take up the offer. And sadly that was the case. Many would rather continue in their state of sin and uncertainty rather than to surrender themselves completely to God and His ways.

Then let us all see what we have heard in the Gospel today. The Lord appeared to His disciples who were in the middle of the lake, trapped within a great storm, with high winds and strong waves, threatening to sink the whole ship with them inside. And the disciples were afraid when they saw the Lord for the first time, thinking that He was a ghost.

They were afraid and fearful, and their faith in God wavered, just as how it was in the past, at the time of the prophet Jeremiah. The people of God were unfaithful and they followed their own preferences and paths. And that was just as the disciples in the boat rocked by the strong winds and the strong waves, threatening to sink them. And thus, the temptations of the world were very strong, and pulling the people of God to them, these threatened to bring the people of God into eternal damnation.

But Jesus the Lord came, and He came to His disciples when they were in distress, telling them not to be afraid, for He was there with them. And He stretched out His hand, and called upon St. Peter when he was wavering. St. Peter reached out to the Lord and walked on the water, but his faith in Him wavered, and he was sinking into the water. And God helped him up, and chided him briefly for his doubts. And upon entering the boat, He calmed down the wind and the waves.

In this rich show of symbolism, we saw how in our own present time, the Church is that boat in which all of us the people of God are in. Indeed, the Church is often portrayed as a boat, in how the churches in both Western and Eastern Christendom were constructed, especially in the Eastern traditions. And all of us the people of God are in this boat, journeying across the troubled waters, facing the wind and the waves, that is this world and all of its troubles and challenges.

And just as all peoples when faced with a sinking boat would do, we have a choice, either to stay with the ship or to jump ship into the water, hoping that by jumping into the water we might be saved from sinking. But more often than not, that kind of decision is done out of fear and uncertainty, and lack of faith in the capability of the one guiding the ship to bring the people to safety.

And thus when God Who is the guide of the Church, as its Head, guided us all in His Church, all of us should hold fast and stay faithful and courageous for as long as we are able to. Let us all strengthen our faith in God, and learn to put our complete trust in Him, for even though we have been unfaithful, as it was for the people of Judah and Israel in the past, God is always forever faithful.

Let us all also heed the examples of the saints, St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard, whose examples can be our inspiration in how we live our lives. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a holy and devoted bishop of the region of Vercelli in Italy, who gave most of his life in the devout service of God. He was a strong believer in the Lord and an ardent defender of His truth against all those who would stir up the faithful by spreading heresies and falsehoods.

St. Eusebius of Vercelli lived at a turbulent time, and although at that time, Christianity had become a tolerated faith in the Roman Empire, and more and more people accepted the Lord as their Saviour, but there were many heresies and false teachings abound, threatening to sunder the Church and condemn many of the faithful people of God into oblivion.

He worked hard to convince the people to return from their erroneous path, and many responded in kind, following him back to the safety and the good embrace of their Lord and God. He helped many people to reconcile themselves with the Church and the Lord, rejected the heresies which they had come to believe, and instead embraced the truth and the fullness of the magisterium teaching of the Church.

Similarly, St. Peter Julian Eymard also devoted his life to the Lord, to bring the Good News to the people, promoting the devotion to the Lord, especially to His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, adoring the Lord in all things, and calling all those who have sinned to repent and return to the embrace of the Lord through the Church.

He helped to establish two congregations of religious life whose aims were to bring the people of God closer to Him through the pious and strong devotion to the Eucharist. And many people responded in kind, devoting themselves to the Lord and changing their ways, and therefore many were brought to the salvation of God through what this holy saint has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the words of the Holy Scriptures and on the examples of these holy saints, let us all do the same with our own lives, as all of us can also do what they have done. Let us stay committed and remain faithful to God, despite the challenges and the temptations calling us to do otherwise. Let us remain true to God through His Church, and help many others to remain firmly rooted in faith, that each and every one of us may be saved.

May God, our Lord and Saviour, our loving Father and Redeemer, may He bless us all and keep us forevermore in His grace, and may He never forget about us in our moments of distress, but come to us, and may we take up His offer of salvation, change our ways and go forth to meet Him in the salvation and eternal life He promised all those who are faithful to Him. Amen.

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