Memorial of Saint John Vianney, priest
(Jeremiah 30:1-2.12-15.18-22; Matthew 14:22-36)
St. Matthew shapes the story of Jesus walking on water as a lesson in courage. First, he locates the disciples in a boat as a way of symbolizing the Church. Then, he speaks of night falling to indicate the presence of evil lurking around them. Likewise, he mentions waves tossing about the boat to tell how death threatens the community. He also pictures Jesus coming to save the Church. Jesus tells the fearful disciples to “take courage.” He adds, “’It is I,” in Greek, “I AM” -- the name God gave to Moses when He reveals the plan to rescue Israel. Finally, Jesus invites Peter to join him walking on the water. Peter succeeds in this endeavor until he loses courage and begins to sink.
The Church has been challenged throughout its existence. In the first few centuries persecution threatened the lives of Christians. Publicly adhering to the faith was like walking on water. Today the trouble is more existential. Catholics wonder if all they believe and all they are asked to do for the faith is worthwhile. They ask if science offers more hope for a better life. As always, the Church needs to take courage from its faith that Jesus remains ready to assist it. Both undaunted and humble, the Church must everywhere present examples of the fulfillment he brings.
Today the Church remembers St. John Vianney, a simple priest renowned for both holiness and wisdom. He spent most of his life in a rural French town, where he offered pastoral care to the people. He exemplified courage in fulfilling the assignment. His bishop told him that as he would find “’little love of God in that parish.’” The challenge invited the priest to pray to God, “’…grant me the conversion of my parish. I am willing to suffer whatever you wish for the rest of my life.’” John Vianney’s success in the endeavor has made him the patron of parish priests.