Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the trouble and opposition which the prophet Jeremiah had to face during his ministry in the kingdom of Judah, during the years just prior to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah warned the remaining people of God in Judah about the coming destruction, but they refused to listen to the Lord speaking through His prophet.
The king and his advisers, the nobles and the elites, the priests and most likely, most of the people hardened their hearts and minds, and closed their ears off from listening to the word of God. They persecuted Jeremiah and cast him out, and he had to suffer many rejections and troubles throughout the years of his ministry, just as the many other prophets and messengers of God had also suffered. The people of God had turned a deaf ear to their God.
Then, in the Gospel passage today, we heard about the story of St. John the Baptist, God’s herald and messenger, the last of the prophets who was sent to proclaim the coming and arrival of the Messiah into the world, that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist himself also encountered many oppositions, especially from the priests and the Pharisees, much as Jeremiah had once suffered.
St. John the Baptist has spoken the truth to the people, telling them of their sins and wickedness, of all their vile works and all the things that have kept them out of the grace and love of God. He was much reviled for this, and his enemies were aplenty, just as many people came to him to seek repentance and baptism in the Jordan. Yet, St. John the Baptist did not mince his words and continued to preach the truth.
And in the end, when he spoke up against the king, Herod, who had committed adultery with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, he was imprisoned and put to much suffering. Herod refused to kill the holy man of God outright, but Herodias, who was likely very angry at St. John the Baptist for his outspoken attitude towards her irregular and wicked relationship with Herod, plotted to kill him.
Although it was not exactly specified in the Scriptures, but it was likely because by being taken up as Herod’s wife, she would have real power, earthly glory, wealth and privileges that being the wife of a deceased former king, Herod’s brother, could not have given her. Thus, pride and worldly greed had likely caused that woman to fall into such a great sin, as described in the Gospel passage today.
Herodias had her daughter to dance seductively before Herod to get him to agree to the conditions she would prepare beforehand. Herod made promises and vows in his stupor, promising to give everything the daughter of Herodias asked for, even half of his own kingdom. In that state, Herodias managed to trick Herod into killing St. John the Baptist by asking for his head on a platter.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we also celebrate the feast of another famous holy servant of God, namely St. John Vianney, the patron saint of all priests. He was a French priest of a small parish in the town called Ars. As such he was affectionately called as the Cure of Ars. He was remembered for his great humility, his piety and devotion to God, his commitment to the flock entrusted under his care, as he ministered to them and listening to their confessions.
He became so popular and renowned throughout France and even beyond, that thousands came to him, seeking to have their sins confessed to him, or to have evil spirits cast out from them through exorcism. Yet despite his apparent popularity and charm, St. John Vianney remained humble, and in fact, with his popularity and apparent success, there were many trials and difficulties which many may not have realised, that all of them happened to this holy saint of God.
He had many opponents and naysayers who refused to believe in him, doubted him, persecuted him and made his life difficult, saying perjuries and lies about him, and slandering him before others. But St. John Vianney continued to carry out his priestly duties as best as he could, and he remained humble and obedient to God and to the will of his superiors in the Church. Nonetheless, the impact of his examples and actions reached out far and wide.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in all of the readings of this day and from the lives of the holy servants of God, we should come to realise that to be a faithful disciple and follower of Our God is not something that will be easy for us. Instead, there will be undoubtedly plenty of challenges, obstacles, difficulties, trials and all sorts of things that will cause us to want to give up the faith and abandon the Lord.
This is when we should be inspired by the examples and the courage of the prophets, such as Jeremiah and many other servants of God who suffered and yet did their best to show their faith to others, calling many others to righteousness in their footsteps. Let us all seek to follow the good examples and the dedication shown by St. John Vianney, that through our own exemplary and good faith, we may show many others how we should love God and dedicate ourselves to Him with all of our hearts. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.