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, 4 August 2021 : 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, today all of us are called together to recall our Christian calling and mission, as entrusted to us by the Lord, our God, our Master and Saviour. He has called on all of us to follow Him and to be His disciples. As today we celebrate the feast of the great Patron of All Priests, namely St. John Maria Vianney, also known as St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, we are all called to reflect on our own calling and vocation in life.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, every men and everyone shall be judged based on their own deeds and actions, and all of them shall be held responsible for their contributions, as well as the failure to act and contribute when they were perfectly able to do so. Those who were righteous and fell into sin would be judged by those sins and also by their righteousness, while those who sinned and then repented, would also have a chance of salvation through his repentance and in abandoning the ways of the wicked.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Who went through to many places, healing the sick and caring for those who needed Him and His guidance, as He ministered to them and showed His love to them. He sent His disciples to spread the same Good News and to do the same good works He had done, and in sending them, He has called and sent forth His servants, those who responded to His call and accept the Lord’s call, and walked in His path, doing whatever they could in order to do His will. And the Lord then spoke of how the harvest was plentiful, but there was a great lack of labourers to collect the harvest.

What does He mean by saying that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that while there are plenty of opportunities for evangelisation and for the salvation of souls, that is the true meaning of this ‘harvest of the Lord’, but there were few who wanted to participate in the labour and efforts to bring this about. Just as the disciples and the Apostles in the old times, we are all called to be the Lord’s disciples, the witnesses of His truth, His salvation and teachings among the nations. But many of us have not responded to His call, and even some still rejected Him and abandoned Him.

This is why today, we are all called to hearken to the Lord’s call, to be stirred and to be moved to action, that we no longer be indecisive or doubtful, or be filled with wickedness and all sorts of infidelities. Instead, we should take the first step and respond to the Lord’s call, by embracing the Lord’s truth, His teachings and commandments, to our hearts. We are all called to model ourselves after St. John Vianney, in his life, faith and dedication to the Lord, and we also pray for our priests, that they may also be like St. John Vianney in their faith and dedication as well.

St. John Vianney was the simple parish priest of the church in the village of Ars in France. He came from a very humble background, and he almost did not become a priest as his education was stunted and he encountered many challenging moments in the seminary and in his formation. He failed some of the subjects and did not excel in the academics, and yet, this did not deter him from becoming a most dedicated and committed priest and servant of God later on. St. John Vianney became an ordinary and unassuming parish priest of a small and insignificant village of Ars, and yet his life and contributions would soon have a far greater impact on so many.

St. John Vianney dedicated himself to his flock, caring for the needs, especially the spiritual needs of the people under his care. The parish church was dilapidated and many among the people were apathetic to the Church. Their faith had dwindled and many lived in wretched and wicked state. Yet, St. John Vianney never gave up, and on the contrary, he redoubled his efforts even more, as he spent a lot of time in preaching to them and in reaching out to them, and spending long hours in the confessional, where more and more people over time would come to visit him and confess their sins to him.

St. John Vianney remained humble despite his growing popularity, as thousands and more flocked daily to see him and to confess their sins to him, and to seek advice from him. He lived his life in humble dedication to the Lord, spending time to care for the needs of the people of God and to bring them ever closer to Him. Indeed, he is the role model for all of us and especially all of our priests, all those whom God had called and chosen, and who have responded to His call.

Let us all pray that each and every one of us may find our path in life, that we may dedicate ourselves ever more to the Lord in all things, and that we may be ever closer to Him, and for our priests that they may ever be inspired to follow the Lord and the examples of St. John Vianney, the great priest and servant of God. Let us all be the faithful labourers in the Lord’s field, spreading the Good News of God’s salvation to ever more people, that more and more can be saved, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that area, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”

The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

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.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 6-7a, 13-14, 21-22, 23

We have sinned like our ancestors; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When they were in Egypt, our ancestors had no regard for Your wondrous deeds.

But soon they forgot His works and did not wait for His counsel. They gave way to wanton craving and tempted God in the desert.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

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.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of All Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 13 : 1-2, 25 – Numbers 14 : 1, 26-30, 34-35

YHVH then spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to explore the land of Canaan that I am giving to the Israelites; send one man from each of the ancestral tribes, all of them leaders.”

After forty days of exploration, they returned. They went and met Moses, Aaron and the whole community of Israelites in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They gave an account to them and the whole community and showed them the fruit of this land.

And they said, “We entered the land where you sent us, truly a land flowing with milk and honey and here is the fruit. But how strong are the people who inhabit the land! The cities are fortified with walls and bars, and we even saw there descendants of the Anakites. Amalekites live in the region of the Negeb; Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; the Canaanites are by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”

Caleb then quieted the people who rose up against Moses and said, “We should go up and take over the land, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We cannot advance against these people for they are stronger than we are.”

And they spread an unfavourable report about the land that they had explored, saying to the Israelites, “The land we went through to explore is a land that devours its inhabitants and all the people we saw there are men of great size. We even saw giants (these giants were the Anakites). We felt like grasshoppers before them, and to them we must have seemed the same.”

Then all the community broke out in loud cries and wept during the night. Then YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, “How long will this wicked community grumble against Me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel against Me. Say to them : As truly as I live, it is YHVH Who speaks, I will do to you what you have said in My hearing.”

“All of you of twenty years and more, numbered in the census, who grumbled against Me, your corpses will fall in the desert. You will not enter the land where I swore to settle you, except Caleb, son of Jephunneh and Joshua, son of Nun. According to the number of days spent in exploring the land – forty days, for every day a year – for forty years you shall bear the guilt of your sins and you shall know what it is to oppose Me.”

“I, YHVH, have spoken. Surely this is what I will do to this wicked community that has conspired against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed and this is where they shall die.”

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.”

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.