Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th 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 listened to the words of God in the Scriptures, beginning with what we heard in the Book of Exodus, our first reading today, when Moses descended down from the holy mountain of Sinai, where he was with God for forty days and forty nights, and where God passed on all of His laws and precepts to Moses so that he might teach them all to God's people Israel.

Then in the Gospel today, we heard the parables which Jesus taught His disciples and the people, explaining about the kingdom of heaven, the long awaited coming of the kingdom and reign of God, and what it truly means. He used common daily examples familiar to the people at the time, many of whom were farmers and fishermen, who could then associate the importance of the kingdom of heaven with the pearl of great value and the hidden treasure in a field.

The key message from these Scripture passages we heard today is the fact that God had willingly revealed Himself and all of His truths and teachings to us all, shown in the first reading, as He taught to Moses and revealed through him all of His divine laws and commandments, which He then commanded Israel to keep faithfully for all ages henceforth. In the Gospel, through Jesus our Lord, God wanted to teach all of us His truth, that we may turn away from our sinful ways and return to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Law of God, His ways and His love is the greatest gift that all of us mankind can receive in life. God gives us many gifts and blessings, all of which are nothing compared to the gift that God gave us all. For the Law of God is the guiding path which the Lord put in place to help all of us that we may find our way to Him, and that we may be saved from the destruction in hell. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that nothing that we gather in this life, be it wealth, possessions, material goods, fame or worldly glory will be able to save us from the fires of hell.

What the Scripture passages wanted to remind us today is that our priority in life should be for us to love the Lord and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. For He is the greatest treasure of all, and by right should be the focal point of all of us and the knowledge of God's love is that greatest treasure that all of us can gain, far beyond and far surpassing all the other gifts which we can gather from the world. There is nothing more precious than God's law, that shows us how we ought to love Him just as He has loved us, because in God we can find the sure and perfect assurance of eternal and true joy.

But, in reality, many of us do not obey what the Lord had commanded us all to do. We prefer to follow our own path, and do what the world had shown us all to do. The Lord commanded us to honour and worship Him alone above all other things, for He is the One and only God, and yet, many of us are so busy and so distracted in our pursuit of more wealth, more worldly possessions, or fame and glory, that it is as if we worship and adore these things much more than we love the Lord, Who had made all these things possible for us.

We conveniently often forget the fact that all of our blessings have been given to us by the grace of God, that for some, we may have received more of the blessings, and while for others, we may have received less. And yet, the trait that many of us share is that it is very difficult for us to satisfy our wants and desires. And it is in our human nature that we often desire for more when we have something, and we quickly become indulged in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and satisfaction.

We have to realise that many of us have veered away from the path which God had shown us, and this is often caused by our greed and desires, and our inability to restrain and control those desires. We ended up ignoring the Lord's commandments and laws, because we are so busy gathering for us all of those things mentioned which brought about temporary worldly satisfaction, but one that will not last forever.

After all, it does not matter how much money we have, how many material possessions and goods we have, and it does not matter how much worldly glory, status, prestige or fame that we have in this life, but none of these will avail us on the day of our reckoning, when the Lord calls us to Him, to be judged for all that we have done in our lives. Are we then able to confidently show before the Lord all that we have done, knowing that we have obeyed Him and done His will?

Let us then follow in the footsteps of the holy saints, whose feast day we celebrate today, hoping that by following their examples, we may be able to refocus our lives to God, and find the way to be His faithful followers and people. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a holy bishop and a devout servant of God who lived during the early days of the Church during the height of the Arian heresy, while St. Peter Julian Eymard was a French priest and founder of the religious congregations, the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Eusebius of Vercelli lived during a troubled time for the Church and the faithful, at the time when the Christian faith has been tolerated and welcomed in the Roman Empire, but at that same time there were also plenty of divisions and disagreements in the Church. At that time, the Arian heresy, which had been formally condemned by the Church, in their denial of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, was still widespread among the people and the clergy alike.

There was great conflict and tribulations facing those who were faithful to the true teachings of the faith. St. Eusebius refused to condemn his fellow bishop, another holy man, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who stood firmly in his orthodox, Nicaean faith, in which both of them affirmed the faith they had in the divinity of Christ, against those who followed the false teachings of Arianism.

He was persecuted and tortured by many, even by among those in power, as those people had been influenced by the same heresy. And yet, he did not give up his attempts and hard work to convince many and more people to return to the true faith through his sermons and writings. He continued to persevere through those challenges, doing what the Lord had called him to do, to be His servant among His people.

Meanwhile, St. Peter Julian Eymard was a renowned priest who dedicated his life to the Lord, and inspired many others to do the same, by his revitalisation of the places and parishes he worked at, by encouraging the active and strong devotion to the Lord, particularly in His Most Holy Presence in the Eucharist. To that extent, he encouraged the faithful to participate in the Forty Hours devotion to the Eucharist, and established two religious orders devoted to the Lord.

Through his works, St. Peter Julian Eymard helped to bring more and more people closer to the Lord, and turning away from their sinful lives and attachment to the world. He brought the Lord closer to those people, and as a result, many more souls received salvation from God and were put on the path towards the eternal life and glory promised by the Lord to all who are faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the example of these two holy saints showed us that as Christians, there are many areas in which all of us will be able to contribute to, in order to bring ourselves and our fellow brethren closer to God. Let us all turn away from all of our selfishness, from all of our greed and worldly desires, and let us all no longer be tempted by all these, but instead focus ourselves on the Lord alone, and renew our commitment to live in accordance with His will and obeying His laws.

May the Lord bless us all in our endeavours, and may He strengthen in us the faith that we may be ever committed in our respective lives. May St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard, faithful and holy servants of God intercede for us all and pray for us always. Amen.

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