Thursday, 2 August 2018 : 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 word of God in the Scriptures, beginning with the passage from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, where God told the people through the prophet, what His intentions are for us all, His beloved ones, those whom He had created. God had created each and every one of us, and He gave us the life that we now have.

He compared Himself to a potter, who created, moulded and reshaped the earthwork according to his own desires. Each potter has a vision of how the potter wants the earthwork and ceramic to end up like, be it the shape or the function. It is entirely in the hands of the potter that the fate of the earthwork is decided. Thus, God was saying that, He alone has the power over all of us mankind, as He is the Potter of us all, His masterpieces.

And in the Gospel passage today, all of us have heard about the Lord Jesus speaking to the people and to His disciples about a parable likening the kingdom of God to a large fishing net spread to capture many fishes in the sea. Many of the fishes are gathered and then later on sorted, with the good ones being kept while the bad quality ones are thrown away and discarded.

The Lord Himself explained briefly the meaning of this parable as He said of the coming of the end of times when all the souls of man will be judged, with those who are deemed to be good and worthy to be brought into eternal life and glory with God, sorted out by the Angels whom the Lord sent to gather His faithful people from among the wicked. Meanwhile the wicked will be cast out to utter darkness and eternal suffering.

But God did not intend for the wicked to perish or die, as ultimately every single one of us, be it good or wicked at this moment, are beloved to Him. Remember that God is always ever faithful despite the disobedience that we showed to Him. He will never abandon us even though we have abandoned Him. He will continue to give us opportunity after opportunity, chance after chance to change our ways and to repent from our sins.

The Lord therefore wants to mould us and change us in accordance with His will and desire. He wants each and every one of us to be transformed in body, mind, heart and soul into people of the light. All of us who have lived in the darkness, we are called to this new existence, that is existence in the light of God. We have to abandon our past darkness, the sinfulness that have kept us away from God.

That is why today, the second day of August is also known in the Church as the day of the Portiuncula Indulgence, when the Lord revealed to St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans of the special grace and mercy which He offers freely to all those who devoutly visit the House of God, confessing their sins and being part of the celebration of the Holy Mass, along with the intention of repentance and turning away from God.

But are we willing to allow ourselves to be forgiven our sins? God indeed freely offers Himself His mercy, but are we open to welcome Him to come into our hearts and to heal us from all the sickness and corruption caused by our sins? We need to allow God to enter into our lives and perform His wonders in our midst, and the way is for us to cooperate with God and not to harden our hearts.

Again comparing to a potter and his pottery works, if a piece of pottery is to harden before its shape is completed, then the pottery is very likely to break and shatter into pieces when the potter exerts force in order to change its shape. That is why normally potters will work on the pottery pieces while they are still soft and mouldable. Therefore, in a similar way, if we harden our hearts and minds, and are not receptive to God’s works in our midst, it is likely that we will end up harming only ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should instead look upon the examples set by the holy saints of God, particularly those of St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard, the two saints whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a devout and committed servant of God, who as the bishop and one of the leaders of the early Church, strove courageously against the dangerous threat of heresies, especially that of the Arian heresy.

St. Eusebius was among the many defenders of the true orthodox faith, against all those who tried to subvert it and against all those who sought to turn the faithful people of God into false paths. He was persecuted, had his life threatened, and faced all sorts of insults and even troubles, to the point of being imprisoned under the authority of those who were sympathetic to the cause of the heretics and the pagans. Yet, St. Eusebius remained true to his faith in God and to his cause, and eventually, the true faith triumphed.

Meanwhile, St. Peter Julian Eymard was a devout priest who was the initiator and founder of congregation of religious and the faithful dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, the Real and True Presence of the Lord amidst us all in this world. He was renowned for his great faith and for his immense commitment and piety, which inspired many others to also follow in his footsteps and to strive to have the same faith in God.

Through the examples of these two holy and devout saints, all of us can see how each and every one of us as Christians can also be like them, in how we live our lives as faithful and dedicated servants of God. The Lord has called us all to Him, to be reconciled with Him, and to be transformed completely, from beings engulfed and corrupted by sin, into people truly worthy of God as His beloved children. Let us allow ourselves to be moulded into worthy vessels of His presence in our lives.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us and watch over us in our journey. May He continue to bless us and to keep us in His providence, that in all the things, the challenges and difficulties, the trials and tribulations we encounter in life, we will always strive to be ever more faithful to the Lord, our God. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 2 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Matthew 13 : 47-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.”

Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So He said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”

When Jesus had finished these parables, He left that place.

Thursday, 2 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Psalm 145 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6ab

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, my soul! I will sing to YHVH all my life; I will sing praise to God while I live.

Do not put your trust in princes, in a great one, who cannot save. Not sooner his spirit has left, that he goes back to the earth; on that very day, any plan comes to nothing.

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

Thursday, 2 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Jeremiah 18 : 1-6

This is the word of YHVH that came to Jeremiah : “Go down to the potter’s house and there you will hear what I have to say.”

So I went to the potter’s house and found him working at the wheel. But the pot he was working on was spoilt in his hands, so he reworked it all over again into another pot that suits his desire.

Meanwhile YHVH sent me His word, “People of Israel, can I not do with you what this potter does? As clay in the potter’s hand so are you in My hands.”

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.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Matthew 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it."

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, Bishop and St. Peter Julian Eymard, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Priests)

Psalm 98 : 5, 6, 7, 9

Extol YHVH, our God; worship at His footstool. Holy is He! And mighty!

Among His priests were Moses and Aaron; and Samuel, among those who called on His Name. They called to YHVH, and He answered them.

In the pillar of cloud He spoke to them; and they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them.

Extol YHVH our God; worship at His holy mountain. Holy is YHVH our God!