“A good shepherd, a shepherd according to the heart of God, is the greatest treasure that the good God can give to a parish,
and one of the most precious gifts of the divine mercy.” The Curé of Ars
The month of August is embedded with various celebrations that unite all of us as a family. The feast of St. John Maria Vianney, the Feast of the Assumption of Blessed Mother, and the Independence Day of our country are some of the special celebrations of this month.
On 4th of August, we celebrate the feast of St. John Maria Vianney, the patron saint of all priests. I am thankful to God, that I was able to visit Ars twice and pray at the very place where this great saintly priest exercised his ministerial priesthood. I always wonder what might be the factors that transformed an ordinary and unintellectual priest into the altar for public veneration and later on as the patron saint? Beyond doubt, I firmly believe, it is his immense love for God and his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls that elevated St. John Mary Vianney as the patron and model for sacred ministers. The simple stories of his life, the ardent zeal to earn souls of the sinners for Christ and his commitment to administer the sacraments and especially the sacrament of reconciliation for long hours remain as lessons for us all, who share the ministerial priesthood of Jesus, The High Priest. The life story of this saintly figure echoes the call and consecration of prominent prophets, who were once upon a time timid and fragile and thus remains a source of inspiration and a point of reference for all priests, who are strengthened and anointed by the Divine Potter. Besides them, John Vianney responded to the Divine Call with his zeal, prayer and love.
One of the famous quotes from the Curé D’Ars is “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, that indicates how strongly he believes in the value of priesthood. He sets us an example how we should live our priesthood, after the model of Good Shepherd. It goes in line with the Prophecy of Jeremiah to whom God promises, “I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently” (Jeremiah 3:15).
We who are ordained as priests in the catholic church have a great challenge, to become a priest “after the heart of Jesus, the Eternal Priest”. Bearing the Sacred Heart of Jesus and translating through our words and deeds is an honor and at the same time a challenge in this modern world. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book “Those Mysterious Priests” (1974), talks about, how a priest continues the Incarnation of God by sharing in the three offices of Christ—to Teach, to Sanctify and to Lead. Christ is counting on us – in the footsteps of the close-to-God. My prayer is that let the lamp that was lit in a tiny village of Ars remain as a beacon of hope to one and all, especially in this ‘year of vocation’.
For Christians in India, August 15 marks two important celebrations. The solemnity of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, who exercised her free will for the incarnation of God, the Son and Independence of India, by which the sons of soil obtained freedom from the British. These twin celebrations point to secular and spiritual freedom, that is fundamental for a healthy Christian life.
The Assumption of Mary embodies a great mystery that unfolds our future too. Mary, in fact, precedes us on the path walked upon by those who, through their Baptism, have bound their life to Jesus, as Mary bound her own life to Him. This feast makes us look to heaven, and foretells the “new heaven and new earth”, with the Risen Christ’s victory over death and the definitive defeat of evil. Therefore, the exultation of the humble maiden of Galilee, expressed in the Canticle of the Magnificat, resonates the song of all humanity and the generation to come, which sees with satisfaction the Lord stoop over all men and all women, humble creatures, and assume them with him into heaven. Let this Marian Year of Our Congregation mark the freedom from the shades of ‘new normal Covid 19’ to a healthy Christocentric life of the faithful.
The celebration of the Independence of India is a reminder for all of us to liberate our country from the clutches of poverty, inequality, injustice and shallow patriotism. In this sense, The Poem by Rabindranath Tagore is so meaningful and relevant:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Let this be a ‘wakeup call’ and rather a ‘clarion call’ into action in the footsteps of St. John Maria Vianney and our Mother Mary, who trod ‘The Road Less Travelled’.
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