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.”

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.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the famous St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, specifically our parish priests. He was also known by his name of the Cure of Ars, from the role he played in his dwelling at Ars in France, where he worked many works of wonders and miracles among the people of God through his hard work and dedication.

In the Scripture readings today, we heard about the covenant and the promise that God had made through His prophet Jeremiah, that He would renew the covenant with His people and bring them together again as one people, and gather them in His love into His embrace. And this was taken in the context that the people of God had been brought low and many were brought into exile in the land of their enemies, having sinned many times before the Lord.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also heard in the Gospel, the famous exchange between Jesus and His disciples, primarily St. Peter, who professed his renewed faith to the Lord, proclaiming without hesitation that Jesus his Master, is the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, and the Lord of all. This is something which many others, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and even among the disciples themselves, found hard to believe.

And Jesus entrusted all of His flock to him, whom He charged to be the leader of the whole Church which He established upon this world, founded upon that same faith which St. Peter had proclaimed before all that day. And He charged him with the care of the keys to the kingdom of heaven, with the responsibility to bind and unbind the souls of mankind to the Lord, that is the mission of the Church.

And how is this relevant to what we are celebrating today as the feast day of St. John Vianney? St. John Vianney is an example for all the priests, all those who have devoted themselves to the Lord. He has given himself in service to those who are the least and the weakest in the society, and he has delivered many great sermons, calling on many people to repent their sins and to find their way back to the Lord.

He cured the hearts of the faithful, and brought them back from the darkness and back into the light. He stirred the hearts of sinners that they might hearken to the word and the calling of God, which sounded in their hearts, and pulled them back from the edge of the precipice leading to hell. And thus, in this manner, St. John Vianney embodied that calling and that mission which Jesus our Lord had entrusted to St. Peter.

Our priests and our devoted servants of God are all precious to us, and they are the ones who are our bridges, the ones who help us to encounter the Lord, much as He is the One Who is the bridge between us sinful men and the Father in Heaven. They do not have an easy life, and as we all should understand, being priests and devoted servants of God is difficult, as challenges after challenges shall come their way.

Therefore today, as we celebrate together the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, let us all pray for our priests, all those who have devoted their lives and given themselves to care for God’s people, and to gather as many souls as possible to the salvation in God. Let us all devote ourselves as well in similar manner and commit ourselves to support our faithful priests, that their works will lead to even greater impact in bringing God’s beloved but wayward people back into His embrace.

May God help us all, and may He awaken in us all as well, the spirit of service and dedication, and hopefully that some of us may take up the challenge and the calling He had made unto us, that we too may have new priests and holy servants of God arising from our ranks. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, after Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for asking Him to give them a sign, He 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 Bar-Jona, 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 Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”