Wednesday 19 August 2020

The memory of St Eudes tells us that God even now cares for his Church as he cared for the people of Israel. As he sent prophets to remind Israel about their duty to God, we find in time of need in the Church God sending saints to remind the Church about things that seems to have been forgotten. When there was so much social difference between the rich and the poor, God sent  St. Dominic  who was able to bring the two groups together and proclaim that in the sight of God we are all Children of God, that there should no difference between the poor and the rich.

When the Church became rich and poverty was forgotten God raised up St. Francis of Assisi to remind the believers that the Church of Christ is the Church of the poor.

When young boys were roaming the streets of Turin with no one to care for their material welfare nor their spiritual needs, God raised up St. John Bosco who provided them food, shelter and a good education along with instruction in the Catholic faith.

St. John Eudes (1601 – 1680) was born at a time when the Church in France was corrupt and in many ways a source of evil rather than good. There were the rich clergy who enjoyed all the privileges and the poor clergy deprived all privileges had to face untold difficulties to fulfil their duties as pastors of souls. The people, in general, were poor, superstitious and oppressed. To this was added Jansenism that taught that the body was evil and salvation practically unattainable.

In the face of such existing problems, St. Eudes set up Seminaries to educate the clergy and prepare them spiritually and intellectually to help the people to come out of their ignorance and superstition. This common training given to both the rich and poor also removed, in some way, the difference that existed among them.

Over and over again we find God’s grace acting through people like St. John Eudes. They do not stand outside and complain or run campaigns, they go in and do things, remove the mould of the worldly corruption and bring the Church back to what Christ wanted it to be.

We ought to pray for such leaders and saints even for our times too when there are so many Christian sects fighting one against other and giving the world a wrong impression of the Church that Jesus founded.

We spoke about the situation of the clergy in France at the time of St John Eudes, the corruption, ambition for worldly power (cardinals were leading the army in battle) disregard for and oppression  of the poor. Ezekiel complains about the corruption of the shepherds, religious leaders who were called by God to look after his sheep (the people of God.) But they were looking after themselves and neglecting the sheep. God was not happy with these shepherds. The Lord says this: “I am going to call the shepherds to account. I am going to take my flock back from them. I am going to look after my flock myself.”

Today’s first reading is an examination of conscience for those entrusted with the care of souls in the Church. To be a priest is an honour, priesthood gives one a lot of privileges. But these privileges are given not to make one’s life comfortable, but to care, with more dedication, for the welfare of the people entrusted to their care. “I must decrease, they must increase” and not the contrary.

God has entrusted us with care for the people. Can he trust us? In our position as pastors, what is our priority, the welfare of the people or our welfare?

In the daily Mass the priest and the people are able to witness the love of Christ for them. He becomes bread, food, for the people. Everyone taking part in the Mass is asked thus to become bread for others. Unless we are ready to give ourselves, our time and talents, our health and wealth for the welfare of others we will not become like Christ who gave himself totally as food for each one of us. If the Mass we hear daily can thus change us, it will make us saints.

The Gospel wants to tell us, that in the sight of God, it is not the amount we do that counts but the love with which we do even the smallest thing. We have different groups of people in the gospel, who began the work in the field some in the third hour others in sixth and the ninth hour. And finally, those who were called at the 11th hour. It is unthinkable for an owner of the fields to call someone at the 11th hour and pay him a full day’s wage, nay, no one will call workers at the 11th hour.

Those who were called third, sixth and ninth hour worked for the wage promised by the landowner. Those called in the 11th hour were grateful to the owner for calling them at that hour and they worked more out of love for the kind owner than for the wage they would get.  The Master paid the first three groups for the work they did, and he pays the last group for the love they showed.

We do a lot of work, how much of all these is done out of love for God? Aren’t we working for our advantage, for the money we get, for the praise we get, for the appreciation from people? Do we expect God to be generous with us when we are not generous toward him?  Let love for God be the motive behind every action you do, and you will experience his generosity, as did the people who came to work in the field at the 11th hour.

(By Fr. Tom Karthik SDB)


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