Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Jeremiah 31 : 1-7

YHVH declares that when that time comes He will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be His people. Thus says YHVH : The people who survived the sword have found grace in the desert. As Israel was seeking for his rest YHVH appeared from afar saying, I have loved you with a love everlasting, so I have kept for you My mercy. I will restore you again, and you shall be rebuilt, o virgin Israel!”

“You will take up your tambourines and go out dancing joyfully. You will plant vineyards again on the hills of Samaria, and the farmers who plant them will enjoy their fruit. There shall be a day when watchmen will call out on the hills of Ephraim, “Come, let us go to Zion, to YHVH our God!”

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Revelations 21 : 1-5a

Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

A loud voice came from the throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals : He will pitch His tent among them, and they will be His people; He will be God-with-them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was, has passed away.”

The One seated on the throne said, “See, I make all things new.”

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate as the whole Universal Church the feast of the great saint, St. John Vianney, the renowned Patron saint of all priests and all those who have dedicated themselves in the sacred priesthood in serving the people of God. St. John Vianney, also known by his epithet of the ‘Curé of Ars’, based on the town in which he based himself at, was a truly great and holy man of God that should be our inspiration in how we should live up our faith.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and spent the early days of his youth enduring plenty of difficulties due to the upheavals caused by the French Revolution. Most importantly, for St. John Vianney and his devout family, it was tough for them as many people especially those who supported the revolution who persecuted the Church and those who remained faithful, and they often had to travel far in order to find and participate regularly in the Holy Mass as priests were being persecuted and many were martyred, and celebrations of the Mass sometimes had to be done in secret.

All these and what the young St. John Vianney saw in the priests who still braved through persecutions and celebrating the Holy Mass in secret during those difficult years inspired him in his own journey and calling to priesthood, and he grew up strong in faith despite the challenges that he had to endure throughout his formative years. He did face difficulties in his academics and studies however, as the Revolution interrupted his crucial young academic formation years.

And the wars that occurred during that time under the reign of the Emperor Napoleon caused further trouble to this young aspirant, as he was drafted to the army and further disrupting his studies. Sickness and other circumstances caused him to unintentionally deserted from the army. Nonetheless, God helped the young man and having been pardoned from the desertion, he could once again continue with his studies, which he nonetheless faced a lot of difficulties from.

As he was struggling with Latin and other academic matters, St. John Vianney was almost expelled or suspended from his formation as a priest, because he was considered too slow and sluggish in his studies, unpromising and uneducated. But thanks to the intervention of a local priest, Abbé Balley, St. John Vianney managed to receive his minor ordination and eventually ordination to the sacred order of priesthood, as his piety was used as a reason to push him through the formation.

Because of his issues, he was assigned to be the parish priest of a small and insignificant village of Ars, a small village of merely just over two hundred individuals. Not only that St. John Vianney got lost as he travelled to the secluded village, but he also faced great difficulties from the indifference showed by most of the people, his parishioners, many of whom did not practice their faith and led a wretched life. St. John Vianney was determined to do what he could in order to resolve the situation.

As the local parish priest, St. John Vianney began to do the work to undo the worst damages caused by the French Revolution among other things, spending much time providing for the needs of the people, and he spent long hours in the confessionals, as more and more people gradually became touched by his efforts and outreach, his commitment, his piety and humble outlook in life. He spent much effort in reaching out to sinners, and long lines came to form as more and more people came to him to confess their sins and seeking his guidance and advice, and miracles were told by those who witnessed it.

For all of these, all the dedication that St. John Vianney had showed, someone who was slow and academically challenged due to the circumstances of his youth and formative years, almost did not succeed in fulfilling his calling to be a priest, all in the end did not matter because what mattered was that St. John Vianney was faithful and true to his faith in God. And in answering God’s call, St. John Vianney gave himself wholeheartedly and with true zeal and love, as a great and true inspiration for all of us to follow.

Are we all willing to follow in the footsteps of St. John Vianney? For all of his dedication and exemplary actions as priest and shepherd to those entrusted under his care, and to countless others who came to him seeking God’s help, St. John Vianney was honoured as the Patron saint of all priests, especially the parish priests. While not all of us are called to be priests, and each one of us have our own vocations and calling in life, be it as priests, as religious brothers or sisters, as lay members of the Church, as responsible members of family in sacred matrimony and those who have dedicated themselves to holy life, all of us are called to look upon the examples of St. John Vianney, humble servant of God, holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be holy and exemplary in life, following the good examples of St. John Vianney. Let us all dedicate ourselves to God anew and serve Him faithfully through our holy and pious lives from now on, that just as St. John Vianney had done, we may also lead more and more people to the salvation in God by our holy lives and faithful examples. St. John Vianney, holy patron of saints, pray for all of us and especially our priests that they may indeed be holy as you were, and that our priests may have the ‘heart of a priest’ like you. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 15 : 1-2, 10-14

At that time, some Pharisees, and teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around Jesus. And they said to Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders? For they, they do not wash their hands before eating.”

Jesus then called the people to Him, and said to them, “Listen and understand : What enters into the mouth does not make a person unclean. What defiles a person is what comes out of his mouth.”

After a while the disciples gathered around Jesus and said, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended by what You said?” Jesus answered, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted. Pay no attention to them! They are blind, leading the blind. When a blind person leads another, the two will fall into a pit.”

Alternative reading (Mass of St. John Vianney)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 101 : 16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.”

Your servants’ children will dwell secure; their posterity will endure without fail. Then the Name of the Lord will be declared in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship Him.

Alternative reading (Mass of St. John Vianney)

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 30 : 1-2, 12-15, 18-22

This is another word that came to Jeremiah from YHVH : YHVH, God of Israel says, “Write in a book all that I have communicated to you.”

“YHVH says, ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury is grievous. There is no one to plead your cause. There is a remedy for an ulcer but no healing for you! All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. For I struck you as an enemy does, with a cruel punishment, because of your great guilt and the wickedness of your sin. Why cry now that you are hurt? Is there no cure for your pain? Because of your great crime and grievous sin I have done this to you.’”

“YHVH says, ‘I will restore My people into Jacob’s tents and have pity on his dwellings. The city will be rebuilt over its ruins and the palace restored on its proper place. From them will come songs of praise and the sound of merrymaking. I will multiply them and they shall not be few. I will bestow honour on them and they shall not be despised. Their children will be as before and their community will be established before Me. I will ask their oppressors to account.’”

“‘Their leader will be one of themselves, their ruler shall emerge from their midst. I will bring him close to Me for who would dare to approach Me? You shall be My people and I shall be your God.’”

Alternative reading (Mass of St. John Vianney)

Ezekiel 3 : 16-21

After seven days, the word of YHVH came to me : “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. With the word you hear from My mouth you will warn them in My Name. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ if you do not speak to warn the wicked man, to give up his evil ways, and so live, he shall die for his sin, and I will hold you responsible for his death.”

“But if you have warned the wicked man, and he has not given up his wickedness and evil ways, he shall die for his sin, but you will save yourself. When the righteous man turns from what is good to do evil, I shall put an obstacle in his path : he shall die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. His good deeds will not be remembered; and I shall hold you responsible for his death.”

“But when you have warned the righteous man to keep him from sinning, and he has not sinned, he will live for sure, for he was warned; and you will save your life.”

Monday, 3 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to trust in the Lord, in His promises and in His providence. We must listen to God and hold onto Him, and be careful not to be easily swayed by the words of the false prophets and all those who may attempt to mislead us for their own benefits and selfish gains.

In our first reading today we heard from the story of how the prophet Jeremiah faced tough opposition from all those false prophets that were present during the end days of the kingdom of Judah, as those false prophets tried to mislead the king and the whole nation for their own benefits and gains. For example, when the prophet Jeremiah constantly warned all of them that the Lord’s judgment and day of reckoning would come upon them with the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, the false prophets tried to speak otherwise.

The false prophet Hananiah spoke to the king before everyone that the Lord would help Judah to crush the Babylonians, and helped to reverse all the losses and humiliations that they had suffered under the latter. But this was not the truth or the words of God, rather, it was the words of opportunism and designed to please its listeners. Hananiah said something that everyone wanted to here, reassurance and hope, but unfortunately it was false reassurance and false hope.

What Hananiah had told the king and everyone was meant to earn him a good standing among the king and his council members, and history had often showed that, sometimes, such people were indeed possible to have been agents of the enemy, placed in the court of the king to sow confusion and to undermine them before the enemy themselves were to strike. Hananiah might not have been an agent of the enemy, but his actions and some among the courtiers and the people might have been hidden agents, supporting what Hananiah said to support their own agenda.

In the end, the kings of Judah rebelled against the Babylonians and wanted to free themselves from subjugation by the latter. They thought that they could free themselves from the bondage and servitude to the kings of Babylon by depending on politicking and support of the world, and their ego filled with the false words of the false prophets like Hananiah among many others. If only that they could see the futility of their efforts and how they would be humiliated and crushed for their lack of faith in God.

Through all of these, we are all reminded and shown that to trust in man and in the world is futile and pointless, as none of these can compare to the Lord, His providence and everything that He has done for our sake. In the Gospel we heard of the story of the Lord coming to His disciples in the middle of a great storm walking on the water, and the disciples were all very afraid that their boat would sink due to the waves and wind hitting and rocking their boat.

But the Lord told them all not to be afraid and to trust in Him. And as unbelievable as it might have been to them to see the Lord walking on the water, even to the point of thinking that they had seen a ghost, the Lord reassured them and said that it was indeed Him that they had seen. St. Peter asked the Lord that if that was truly Him, then he would be able to come to Him walking on the water. But along the way, St. Peter still doubted even as he miraculously walked on the water, proving that the Lord’s words were indeed true.

The Lord helped St. Peter when he doubted and almost sank into the water, rebuking him for his lack of trust and faith in Him that made him doubted. This is why all of us are reminded today of this need to put God first and foremost as our trusted hope and ally in whatever situation and challenges we encounter in life. We must not be like the king of Judah who easily trusted in the falsehoods of Hananiah, in the lies of the false prophets who tried to sell forth untruths and temporary respite and comfort, but one that lasts only for a short while before the reality comes and sets in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all from now on put more faith and trust in God, putting our trust in Him Who has provided for us and blessed us with His love. And God has proved to be ever faithful even in our darkest moments and hours. Let us all cling to Him and do not fall to the temptation of pleasure and listening to the lies of the devil, all the falsehoods that did not come from God. Instead, although the path forward may be filled with trials and challenges, let us all trust in the Lord, Who has always been faithful to the Covenant He has established with us, all the time.

Just as He lifted St. Peter up from the water and helped him to renew his faith in Him, let us all pray and ask the Lord for the strength and faith to be always ready to persevere in faith, that we may indeed be filled with trust and faith in God, now and always. May God bless us all and guide us through our journey in life. Amen.