4 August – Memorial for St. John Mary Vianney, Priest
In his youth, John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) taught other children their prayers and catechism. As a priest, was assigned to a parish which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, spent days in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, did penance for his parishioners, and led his people by example. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents.
He has been declared patron saint for all priests.
– Patron Saint Index
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
They will all know me, the least no less than the greatest.
How do you love someone? The slow-learner in me realises more and more these days, that the paramount way to love someone is to know them. To know someone – not in a casual, cursory, or comfortable way – but in a way that communicates love, is to intently and intensely listen. Without judgement.
We hear it often today — trite phrases like “deep down we all want to be known/to be recognised/to be valued.” But how, and why? It is not easy. Because to love someone, however imperfectly, is to seek to know them in their moments of light and dark – and try to receive them in their progress of growth. Paradoxically, as much as we all try to avoid our own darkness, there is a deep craving within each of us, to have someone see us fully and yet continue to choose us and to choose to love us. It is this unconditional decision by someone to love us (not indulgently), that ultimately liberates us to receive and accept our own imperfection. It bestows both courage and detemination to keep on growing. This kind of thorough, deep, and authentic knowledge of others/ourself redeems us. Do you recall a time when you received the forgiveness and tender love of a parent, sibling, friend, or lover – in spite of the pain you inflicted upon them? The kind of wrong that you would not forgive, had it been done to you? And yet – you experienced mercy… how did you feel?
Though you may have initially felt undeserving, did you eventually experience a lightness of being – a deep sense of liberation and peace? The antidote to personal and spiritual stagnation is a contrite heart.
This is the heart of our Father in Heaven. The prophet Jeremiah recounts the trespasses that the ancestors of Israel committed against God by breaking the covenant He made with them. Although God brought to bear His holy anger upon the peoples, He renews a new covenant of Love with them – “deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts… I will be their God and they shall be my people.” God forgives our iniquities and calls upon our sins no more.
As I reflect on the Responsorial Psalm today (Ps. 50), the Psalmist reminds me to constantly cry out to God to “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” It is a necessary reminder, because the Gospel passage reveals clearly that while I may proclaim to love Jesus-the-man and to know Him (as Simon Peter did) in one moment; I actually do not really KNOW Christ-the-Saviour and the extent of His mission and sacrifice. This is why Jesus rebuked Peter: “You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”
This is the depth to which God knows me, and the lack of knowledge of my Father in Heaven. But I am assured – I cannot earn, nor study, nor pledge my way to Heaven. For this relationship rests not solely on my efforts, but on the love and grace of my Lord, and my willingness to keep on confessing my weakness, seeking restoration, praying without ceasing, and dying to my self in all my human wiles.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ageless covenant, designed by God, that actively administers the healing salve of His mercy and restoration to us. God chose to use Jesus to carry out His plan of salvation. And Jesus chose the repentant Saint Peter to loose us from the chains of sin with ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray: “[Jesus] You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.” (excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy).
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, create in me a clean heart. Help me to extend mercy to myself and to my neighbour. Teach me to also practice mercy to your ministers, our priests, who themselves are clothed in the same human weaknesses I have. We are all equally in need of Your grace and love.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for revealing Your heart of love to me Lord. Thank You for always listening to my heart, even when I do not speak to You. This day and more often, help me to listen closely to Your heartbeat and draw closer to You.