Feast of St. John Mary Vianney
Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24
Ministering God’s Love: Zealous Charity
In today’s Gospel, St. Matthew recounts the death of John the Baptist at the crazy whims and jealousy of both Herod and Herodias. John the Baptist gave his life for Jesus and His proclamation of the Kingdom of God. God gave John the Baptist the power even to die as he witnessed to Jesus in his preaching and public ministry of the Good News. What zeal, what strength, what love!
The reading from Jeremiah also tells of another earlier prophet who witnessed God’s love to the people of his day – and was threatened with death! Jeremiah continued to be firm in his statements and prophesies, and God changed the hearts of those seeking to kill him; his life was spared and he continued to minister God’s love to even more people. Again, what zeal, what strength, what love!
Today another example of faithful ministering of God’s Love is given us in the example of the 19th century saint, St. John Mary Vianney. He was a simple man with a humble background, an unsophisticated theology – and a zeal to spread God’s love! He is especially known for his gracious and generous ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at his parish in Ars, France — regularly spending hours sharing God’s love through the Sacrament with thousands of penitents who traveled great distances for those few graced moments with him. His loving ministry flowed from an intense spiritual life based on prayer and mortification. St. John Mary Vianney truly witnessed the age-old love of the Lord witnessed in the lives of both Jeremiah and John the Baptist. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI named him patron of all priests worldwide.
Jesus and St. John Mary Vianney pose some questions for our faith journey: How zealous are we for our faith? Do we offer forgiveness to those who threaten to hurt us? How do we really listen to those who come our way? Do we zealously and tirelessly give of ourselves in service to our sisters and brothers? We have many great examples of zealous, charitable love of God and neighbor.
As we honor the "patron of priests", pray this day especially for priests — active, retired, deceased — and for those discerning a priestly or religious vocation: for a deepening faith — and a greater, zealous love.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.