Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Universal Church rejoices and celebrates together the occasion of the Feast of St. John Vianney, the renowned patron of all saints, whose life and dedication to God became a great source of inspiration for many Christian faithful of the past two centuries. The dedication and zeal with which St. John Vianney carried out his mission and works should also inspire each and every one of us as Christians in our own way of living as well. St. John Vianney’s life is an epitome of true Christian discipleship and virtue, an example for all of us.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and experienced the hardships of the years of persecution of the Church, especially for the priests and ministers of the Church during the French Revolution era. He saw and experienced how priests braved the hardships and risked themselves and their lives as they continued to minister to the faithful people of God, often in hiding from the revolutionaries and all those who were hostile to the Church. That experience inspired St. John Vianney who was therefore inspired to follow their path and he aspired to be a priest later on in his life.

St. John Vianney was not exactly a model seminarian in his seminary days, with regards to his academic achievements. Not only that part of his studies were disrupted by the wars which happened at that time, but he was considered as a slow learner and did not pass his Latin exams, and was hence almost failed in his seminary studies and therefore almost did not become a priest at all. Yet, eventually he managed to pull through, completed his seminary preparations and was finally ordained as a priest, given the assignment to be the parish priest of a small town of Ars, from which his famous nickname, the Cure (parish priest) of Ars would originate from.

St. John Vianney had a difficult start in that town and parish of Ars, precisely because the Revolution and wars, which lasted over two decades had caused the people to lose their faith and became indignant and lukewarm, with some even being outright hostile against the Church and the clergymen. Nonetheless, those things and obstacles did not deter St. John Vianney from his commitment to his missions and works, as he continued to labour day after day, spending a lot of time with the parishioners and the townspeople, slowly getting them to open their hearts and minds once again to the Lord.

St. John Vianney was remembered for his great love and care for the flock entrusted to him, and he spent patiently a lot of hours and time reaching out to them and caring for their needs. He spent many hours in the confessional box, reputedly spending about sixteen hours each day to listen patiently to the people who came to him to confess their sins. As a great confessor and caring priest, soon a long line formed of people who came even from afar, seeking to find him and to confess their sins to him, while others came to him seeking for help and advice. News also spread that miracles had happened through St. John Vianney’s works, and evil spirits particularly feared him.

St. John Vianney continued to inspire many generations of priests and laity alike for years, decades and centuries after his passing, right to this very day, because he truly embodied what a priest is called to do, as the shepherds modelled after the Lord Himself, as the Good Shepherd. As our shepherds, priests have been called to give themselves to the service of the Lord and His people, and to help reach out to those who have been lost and wayward, separated from God, so that they might find their way back to the Lord. That is also why the Church and our world today has the great need for many holy, good priests like that of St. John Vianney.

As the Scripture passages today mentioned to us, there has been many opportunities present in our world today for more mission and work of the Church. The Lord has called more people to be His servants and followers, to become His workers and labourers, in the field of this world. Unfortunately, while the opportunities are aplenty, but those who listened and responded to the call of the Lord are often few, and likely in the coming future to be even lower. In the past few decades, the vocations to the priesthood had been on the decline, and while there had been rejuvenations and growth in some areas, the ever expanding works and scope of the Church’s missions mean that there is never enough hands on deck to do the works of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on top of that, we do not just need any priests, as we surely have known how scandals involving priests and members of the Church in the past decades and more had led to the alienation and disillusionment among not just the members of the Church and the faithful, but also the misunderstanding and the loss of trust from those outside the Church. As we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, those who are wicked shall have to account for their sins and wickedness, while those who are righteous shall be rewarded for their faith and righteousness. Our priests in particular are under constant attacks and surrounded by many challenges and temptations in the midst of their ministries and works.

Hence, the calling and the mission of priests are really not an easy one, as they are expected to do even more than what we have been expected to do as the Christian laypeople and laity. There is a great need all over the world for more holy and devout priests, in the manner that St. John Vianney and many other holy priests of the past had done and there is a need for more of those holy priests who placed their flock and the needs of their flock ahead of their own needs. That is why today we should pray for all of our priests and ask for the intercession of St. John Vianney, that all of our priests may continue to serve the Lord and His people wholeheartedly, full of faith and love.

May the Lord continue to guide us all, and especially our priests, that all of them and all of us may commit ourselves ever more to the good works and missions of the Church, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

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.

Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Alternative Psalm (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.

Thursday, 4 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 31 : 31-34

The time is coming – it is YHVH Who speaks – when I will forge a new Covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. It will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they broke My Covenant although I was their Master, YHVH declares.

This is the Covenant I shall make with Israel after that time : I will put My Law within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be My people. And they will not have to teach each other, neighbour or brother, saying : ‘Know YHVH,’ because they will all know Me, from the greatest to the lowliest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and no longer remember their sin.

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.”

Wednesday, 3 August 2022 : 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 called to put our trust in the Lord again, and to devote ourselves to Him, believing in His love, kindness and compassion because He is calling on all of us sinners to return to Him, and to embrace once again His love and providence. Not only that, but God also reaffirmed His love for each one of us today, that no matter who we are, what our backgrounds are, we are all equally dear and beloved by God, and each one of us are precious to Him. God does not want any of us to be lost to Him.

Hence, as we heard in our first reading passage today from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke to His people telling all of them how He would love them once again, leading them all back to His loving embrace and presence. The Lord showed them His patient and enduring love even after they had persistently disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him. The Lord spoke to His people through Jeremiah at the time when they were down to their lowest, their kingdom, country and cities besieged and were about to be crushed by the overwhelming forces of the Babylonians.

The people of God had suffered as a consequence of their own foolhardy and persistent rebellion against God, in not listening to His prophets and messengers, and in them trusting their own power and other worldly means, in pagan idols and wickedness rather than to follow the Lord, their God. Hence, the prophet Jeremiah foretold to them the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, how everything that they held dear would be wiped out, and that they had to wander off in shame and humiliation among the nations for a time, as they had to endure the consequences of their many sins.

Yet, the Lord also then reassured His people of His continued love, that despite of their infidelity and lack of faith, the Lord still loved them nonetheless, and desired for all of them to return to Him and to find their way back to Him. The Lord had not abandoned them in the way that they had constantly betrayed and abandoned Him earlier. He was indeed still angry about their sins and wickedness, as after all although He is full of love and mercy, but He is also a just and righteous God, Who despises sins and wickedness, and all forms of evils.

This is a reminder that all of us as God’s people ought to listen to Him and follow Him wholeheartedly, that our way of life should be filled with faith and dedication to Him. We should not let the many temptations present in this world from distracting and pulling us away from the path towards God. God has always been so loving, patient and kind in reaching out to us with love, and the least we can do is to open our hearts and minds to Him, and allow Him to enter into our lives, transforming and strengthening us.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord also reaffirmed His love for us all, and highlighted that He loves everyone, regardless of their backgrounds and origins. The woman who had a sick daughter was according to the Scriptures, a Gentile, a Syro-Phoenician woman who did not belong to the Jewish race and people. Yet, the Lord through His interactions with her showed to all of His disciples, to the people and hence to all of us that God’s love is universal, and those who have faith in Him will receive the fullness of His love and grace. Although initially He might have sounded very rude to the woman, even using words denigrating her likening her to a dog, that was actually the Lord’s way of highlighting the folly of the people’s own prejudices and attitudes back then.

That was because then the Jewish people were often prejudiced against the people who were living all around them, their neighbours like the Samaritans, the Phoenicians, and even the Greeks and the Romans. The Jews saw themselves as the chosen people and race of God, as those who have directly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and from the people of Israel of old. But they forgot that God truly loved all of His people, all of mankind, and is calling on everyone, regardless of their descent, pedigree, race, background or anything else. All men and women are equal before God and are equally beloved by Him.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should heed God’s calling, remember His ever generous and patient love for us. Let us all regret and repent from all of our sins, our wickedness and evils. Let us no longer disobey Him and devote ourselves to Him from now on. May the Lord be with us all and strengthen us with the courage and hope, with the faith and energy to live our lives ever more worthily of Him, filled with virtue and righteousness, at all times. Amen.