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.”

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th 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 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.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 15-16, 30-31, 33-34

Rescue me, lest I sink in the mire; deliver me from the storm and the deep waters. Let not the flood engulf me, nor the deep suck me in, let not the pit close its mouth upon me.

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

Saturday, 4 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 11-16, 24

Then the priests and the prophets said to the leaders of the people : “This man must die for he has spoken against the city as you have heard with your own ears!”

Jeremiah replied, “I have been sent by YHVH to prophesy against this House and this city all that you have heard. Hence, reform your ways and your deeds and obey YHVH your God that He may change His mind and not bring upon you the destruction He had intended.”

“As for me I am in your hands; do with me whatever you consider just and right. But know that I am innocent; and if you take my life you commit a crime that is a curse on yourselves, on the city and the people. In truth it was YHVH Who sent me to say all that I said in your hearing.”

Then the leaders, backed by the people, said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve death; he spoke to us in the Name of YHVH.” As for Jeremiah, he was befriended by Ahikam, son of Shaphan, and was not handed over to those who wanted him put to death.

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first of all the reading from the Book of Leviticus, in which God dictated to His people the important dates and feast throughout the entire year, a constant reminder that God is always with His people, and we who have been loved by God and blessed by His graces, must also love Him and dedicate ourselves, our efforts and indeed, our entire beings to Him.

Yet, many of us tend to forget these obligations that we have to Him. We do not recognise the work of God among us, and His presence among us. In the Gospel today, all of us have heard how the people of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus rejected Him, just because they thought that He was a fraud and a trickster, Who because of His humble family origin as the Son of a carpenter, Joseph, His foster father, then He could not have done all the wondrous things which He had done.

That was despite all the miracles and wonders He had performed among them in the neighbouring areas of Capernaum and Bethsaida. But the people of Nazareth preferred to give in to their human pride and ego, to their human intellect and wisdom, and to their limited understanding of the divine truth. They refused to accept the fact that One Who have walked among them and One Whom they had seen growing up from a mere Child, could be the Messiah and Saviour of the whole world, and less still, God Himself, Divine Incarnate.

They have hardened their hearts against God and forgot their obligation to Him. Yet, He still wanted to absolve them their sins, and therefore, He showed forth His mercy and love through Christ, by His merciful and loving works among us, and by His ultimate loving sacrifice on the cross, through which He opened wide for us all, the path to eternal life and glory, if we are to be reconciled with Him and be faithful in Him, walking in His path.

That is why, He, as our Good Shepherd, wants us all His sheep to be reunited with Him, and He therefore awakened in many of His followers, the desire and the calling to follow in His footsteps as shepherds to His flock, to help and guide those sheep on their way to their one and only True Master, Jesus Christ our Lord. They are the successors of the first shepherds, the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, whom God had appointed to be His holy priests.

Today, all of us celebrate together the feast day of the patron of all the holy priests of God. He is St. John Maria Vianney, also known by his nickname, the Cure of Ars. St. John Vianney was known far and wide, even until today, as a holy and devoted priest, who was pious in all of his deeds, and utterly dedicated to the Lord and to His people, among whom he had performed many wonders and miracles, tending to the poor and the sick, both those who are physically and spiritually afflicted.

It was told that thousands upon thousands came to see St. John Vianney, to confess their multitudes of sins, to confide themselves to his care and love, and to seek to be forgiven from their trespasses and wickedness. Many were healed of their afflictions and even had the evil spirits cast out from them. He encountered many difficulties throughout his mission in the parish church of Ars, where he was assigned to, and from which he gained his fame as the Cure of Ars, the caretaker and guide of the people entrusted to him.

Many people came to him seeking God's love and mercy, and St. John Vianney faithfully and patiently fulfilled his duties and obligations, as part of his vocation of priesthood. He showed all of us the exemplary role of a priest, whom God had called and chosen from among His followers and disciples, to be His representatives in this world, as our priests have been ordained and given the same power that God had given to His disciples, to forgive sins and to bring His blessings upon the people.

And they are the links that God had established between Himself and us. The holy and devout priests are those who have shown the concrete love and presence of God among us, through their tireless dedication, commitment and piety, by which they imitated the High Priest of all, Jesus Christ. For Christ Himself had served His people, loving them and caring for them even when those same people rejected Him, ridiculed Him and refused to allow Him to love them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this, on the life and commitment of St. John Vianney as I have just mentioned, and the love of Christ our Lord for us. Let us then strive to be ever more committed and faithful Christians, no longer lukewarm in our faith, or acting as the people of Nazareth had done, in turning away from the Lord and trusting more in their own human wisdom and power. Let us all walk ever more faithfully in God's path, following the footsteps of the holy saints and guided by our holy priests.

And for those of us whom God had called to be His priests, let us all discern well and carefully in our hearts, that we may be able to make a carefully thought and planned choice, that there will be many among us who will walk in the footsteps of St. John Vianney, holy priest and Patron saint of all priests. Let us all learn from his examples, and make ourselves ever more devoted and committed servants and followers of our God. St. John Vianney, pray for us all, God's beloved people. Amen.

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, "Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter's Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? Where did He get all these things?" And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, "The only place where prophets are not welcome is his hometown and in his own family." And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.