04Aug 4th August. Monday, Week 18

Saint John Vianney, priest.

Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney (1786-1859), commonly known as The Curé d’Ars, is honoured in the church as the patron saint of all priests. In a ministry which began in 1815 he was notable for his priestly zeal in his parish, his simplicity and ascetical lifestyle, his tireless hearing of confessions, and his ardent practice of personal prayer. His example did much to restore the confidence of the French clergy, after the disasters of the revolutionary era. Something of the severity in his sermons appears in excerpts given from them on the Work of God website

1) Jeremiah 28:1-17

(By word and gesture Jeremiah predicts the end of his people’s exile)

In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet. ”

Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years. ” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Go, tell Hananah, Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them! For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him; I have even given him the wild animals. ” And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord. ” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

Gospel: Matthew 14,22-36

(Out of compassion, Jesus cures the sick and multiplies food in a deserted place.)

At once Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid. ‘

It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water. ‘ Jesus said, ‘Come. ‘ Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord,’ he cried, ‘save me!’ Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘You have so little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God. ‘

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were saved.

Not the easy way out

When we see religious leaders in disagreement and hear of Jesus’ being mistaken for a ghost, how can we know whose word is from God? People must have shaken their heads in dismay at the clash between the official prophet, Hananiah, and the more charismatic Jeremiah, when Hananiah took the threatening yoke off the neck of the Jeremiah and broke it. Scholars can assure us that Jeremiah truly spoke the word of God, while Hananiah was a false prophet. Back then, however, the common folk saw it as a struggle of prophet against prophet. The quarrel between Jeremiah and Hananiah was public and for a time Jeremiah was silently embarrassed, tempted to give up, not knowing what answer to give Hananiah. Eventually he was vindicated, but in the meanwhile he had to put his faith in God, strengthen his conscience and pray for wisdom.

Jesus’ disciples too were tempted to follow the easier way out of trouble. We read how his disciples came to him with the suggestion, “This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” Whenever we ourselves are faced with difficulty, our first response should not be dictated by an easy way out, nor by our command of financial or other resources, but by loving, tender compassion and personal care. In this part of our heart we hear God’s word. At such times we too should imitate Peter and cry out, “Lord, save me.”