People of Faith, Building the Church
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Jesus’ question to his disciples in Caesarea Philippi continues to challenge us in our 21st Century world. His follow-up question is even more direct: “…who do you say that I am?” Hopefully we can join St. Peter in faithfully responding “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus used this exchange with his disciples to help as a “rock-foundation” for Church, his Body on our earth. “Building up the Church” would include Jesus’ rejection, suffering and death…and even his disciples’ lack of support in Jesus’ toughest hours. Peter spoke from his heart when he cried out “God forbid, Lord…no such thing shall ever happen to you!” Yet Jesus would lovingly embrace his suffering and death on the cross, then rise from the dead. Later the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would give dynamic life to that small group of followers –motivating many people, helping us today be the Church.
Today we celebrate the life of a faithful 19th Century “builder” of the Church, St. John Vianney. A simple man of humble background, he zealously spread God’s love and helped build up the Church as a pastor. He is especially known for his generous ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at his parish in Ars, France — regularly spending long hours celebrating the Sacrament with thousands of penitents from near and far. His ministry flowed from an intense spiritual life based on prayer and penance. As a priest/pastor Saint John Vianney so witnessed the merciful love of the Jesus that in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI named him patron of priests.
Jesus and St. John Vianney challenge us as we help build up the Church in our day: Do we…have a zealous faith…forgive those who hurt us…really listen to one another…generously serve our needy sisters and brothers…benefit by personally sharing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Much food for thought…
As today we honor the “patron of priests”, let’s pray for priests — active, retired, deceased — and prayerfully encourage those discerning a priestly or religious vocation: that they may have deep faith and zealous, Christ-like love to help build up the Church. Together with Sts. Peter, John Vianney, and our Passionist Holy Founder St. Paul of the Cross, may we lovingly proclaim Jesus as the Son of the living God, our Lord and Savior!
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.