Friday, 2 August 2019 : 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 and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the feasts celebrated by the people of Israel as commanded to them by the Lord Himself through Moses, His servant, who delivered the Law and the commandments, the precepts and rules of the Lord to the people. We heard in detail how there were appointed times and days in certain months for particular feasts and celebrations to be celebrated.

And then in the Gospel passage today, it seemed that we heard a different passage not quite related to our first reading passage because in the Gospel we heard of the doubt which the people who witnessed the Lord’s miracles and works in His own hometown in Nazareth. In that passage, we heard of how the people doubted the Lord despite having seen the miracles He has performed, the wisdom with which He spoke to them, simply because they thought they knew Who He was.

These two readings at a quick glance may not seem to be related and speak of two very different contents. However, in truth, the two readings remind each and every one of us in their own way, that a lot of times in our respective lives we must always put our trust in God and remember to love Him and to dedicate ourselves to Him, and not to be distracted and swayed by the many other commitments we have in life.

It is very easy for us to be distracted by the many commitments we have in life, and to be swayed by the temptations of worldly things, which cause us to forget about God and to ignore Him despite Him truly being present in our midst and within our own lives. In the first reading from the Book of Leviticus, God appointed all those feasts and celebrations of the people for a reason, not just merrymaking and celebration, but also to remind them of God and His love for them.

Otherwise it will be very easy for us to be swallowed and distracted by our worldly concerns, thoughts, as what we have witnessed in the Gospel account on the rejection of the Lord by His own people, from His very own hometown in Nazareth was because of their stubborn insistence to follow their own prejudices and biases, that was borne out of their acquaintance and knowledge of the background of Jesus and His growing years in their midst.

Those people would not allow the Lord to enter into their hearts and minds, and they closed themselves to Him, rejecting Him. That is what exactly can happen to us all as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly ideas and corruptions. That is why, similar to what the Israelites have celebrated in the past through their many festivals and celebrations throughout the year, the Church has also put in place numerous celebrations and events throughout the entire liturgical calendar, for us to refocus our attention on God.

On this day we also celebrate the feast day of two saints whose lives and examples may be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, in how we should live our lives to the fullest and devote ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly as we should have. St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a holy and dedicated bishop who endured through a lot of hard times and persecutions and yet remained faithful to the Lord while St. Peter Julian Eymard was a dedicated priest who founded two religious congregations and was remembered for his great piety and commitment to God.

St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a very hardworking bishop and shepherd to the flock of the faithful entrusted under his care, as he spent countless hours and time to minister to the needs of the people of God. He had to endure through a difficult persecution and challenges when he stood up for the true faith against the heresy of Arianism, which was then widespread and popular, enduring even exile for his commitment and faith in God. He continued to work hard in combatting the falsehoods of the heresies to the last moments of his life.

Meanwhile, St. Peter Julian Eymard was remembered for his strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. He helped to spread the popular Forty Hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament throughout his priesthood ministry and gathered likeminded people in establishing two religious congregations of those who dedicate themselves to the Blessed Sacrament, namely the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for the men, and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for the women.

Having seen the examples and the good works done by these two faithful servants of God, all of us should be inspired to live our own lives in the way that they have shown us, that is to centre ourselves on God and to focus our efforts and attention on Him. Let us all strive to be more dedicated and committed to God despite all the challenges, temptations and obstacles we may encounter on our journey of life.

May the Lord through the intercession of His faithful servants, St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Peter Julian Eymard continue to guide us and grant us the strength and courage needed for us to continue to be faithful and loving towards Him, at every moments of our lives. May the Lord bless us all and our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 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 and Priests)

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.

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 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 and Priests)

Psalm 80 : 3, 4, 5-6ab, 10-11ab

Start the music, strike the timbrel, play melodies on the harp and lyre. Sound the trumpet at the new moon, on our feast day, when the new moon is full.

This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob, a statute He wrote for Joseph when he went out of Egypt.

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I, YHVH, am your God.

Friday, 2 August 2019 : 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 and Priests)

Leviticus 23 : 1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37

YHVH spoke to Moses, “Then there are appointed feasts of YHVH at the times fixed for them, when you are to proclaim holy assemblies. At twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month is YHVH’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month it is YHVH’s feast of Unleavened Bread.”

For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. On the first day there will be a sacred assembly and no work of a worker shall be done. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to YHVH and on the seventh day you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no work of a worker.”

YHVH spoke to Moses and said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them : When you enter the land that I will give you and you reap its harvest, you will bring to the priest a sheaf, the first fruits of your harvest and he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

“From the day after the Sabbath, on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. The day after the seventh Sabbath will be the fiftieth day and then you are to offer YHVH a new offering. The tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH.”

“The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tents for YHVH, lasting seven days. The first day you shall hold an assembly; you must do no work of a worker. For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly and you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH. It is a day of solemn assembly in which you shall do no work of a worker.”

“These are the appointed feasts of YHVH in which you are to proclaim holy assemblies for the purpose of offering offerings by fire, burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings to YHVH, according to the ritual of each day.”

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.