Tuesday, 16 August 2016 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Holy Scriptures telling us about how difficult it is to follow the Lord and to be the disciples of the kingdom of God, and what is meant to be a true disciple, and what awaits the disciples of the Lord at the end of their earthly life and journey. All these were succinctly presented to us in today’s readings.

In the first reading, the Lord our God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel His servant, telling us about the chastisement He spoke of the prince of Tyre. In that context, we have to understand that Tyre was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea known as the home of the Phoenician race, who were well known to be master traders and navigators, controlling much of the trade and the wealth at the time.

And thus, Tyre was incredibly wealthy, and in that great abundance and prosperity, we can imagine that it was very easy for its people and its rulers to fall into the familiar traps of hubris and human pride, as well as greed and unbound desires. But the Lord was not just in fact talking about Tyre and its rulers and its people, rather He was truly referring to all of us as well.

How many of us have become proud of our own achievements, our own intellects, especially in how we are able to beat others in some things, and even worse, that we looked down on others around us just because we think that we are in any way better or superior than them? Remember, brethren, that we are God’s creations, and thus whenever we achieve great things, it is truly not because of our own power and might alone that we have accomplished those deeds.

It is a fact which many of us willingly overlooked, and thus it led us into our hubris and unbounded pride and greed. We mankind are by our nature difficult to satisfy, and once we have something that we like, we tend to want and desire for more and more of that which we like. And this is what often prevented us from reaching towards the kingdom of God, as many obstacles and distractions lie on our path to the Lord.

This was what Jesus meant in the Gospel when He spoke of how the rich and the powerful had great difficulties in entering the kingdom of God, alluding to how it will be easier for a camel to enter through the eyes of a needle rather than those who are endowed with wealth, properties, fame and power. And that is because, as the symbolism Jesus used resounded with us, camels usually lower their heads and necks when they want to enter into a place through a doorway that is shorter than they are.

And that was used by God to symbolise humility and the lack of pride and hubris. Jesus was in fact not attacking or discriminating against the rich and the powerful in what He spoke of in the Gospel today. He was not against the rich and the powerful, but instead was against how mankind tend to use their riches and power the moment they have more of them.

Perhaps in this we should see the examples of St. Stephen of Hungary, also known in Hungary as St. Istvan the Great, the first Christian king of Hungary who brought the whole nation of Hungary to the faith. Previously the kingdom of Hungary followed pagan and barbaric ways until St. Stephen of Hungary, the first. Christian king led the whole nation into the faith.

He helped to convert the whole nation of the Hungarians, and even in his position of power and wealth, as well as fame and greatness as king, he remained humble and committed to his duties and responsibilities as a king and leader of his people. He often helped the poor and the less fortunate in his kingdom, serving their needs and caring for them with love and compassion.

St. Stephen the King of Hungary showed his subjects a good example through his leadership and actions. He showed the love of God to them, and how a faithful ought to act in following the Lord, regardless of their wealth, status and standing in the society. This is a lesson which many of us ought to learn from, that we should not be distracted and be tempted by the wealth and possessions we have, and we should resist those pulling forces trying to sever our relationship with God.

Let us all walk in the footsteps of the Lord, and follow Him through the examples of St. Stephen of Hungary, in how we ought to be responsible and be faithful in our words, actions and deeds, and not be swayed by the temptations of wealth, possessions and worldly glory. Let us confidently venture forth and seek the Lord’s kingdom with renewed zeal and faith. God bless us all. Amen.

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