Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the wonderful love which God has given to His people, as the leader of Israel that time, Joshua, the successor of Moses, gathered the whole nation before him and before the Lord just before he was about to pass away in old age. Joshua recounted before the people of the wonderful things that God had done for their ancestors, in His faithfulness and providence.
Most of the people of Israel at that time were those born after the whole nation had been brought into the land of Canaan and settled there, many of them have not experienced or known the wonderful love of God, His many miracles and providence which their parents and grandparents would have seen and remembered as they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt and journeyed through the desert for forty years.
That was why Joshua gathered the whole people to remind them that it was God Who had made them prosper and grow in the land they then have called their own, given to them by God Who cleared their path before them, Who provided and cared for them and their needs, and Who watched them through their every steps and ways. Based on experience and history, the people of God, the Israelites were quick to forget all that God had done for them.
We all knew how they rebelled against God and disobeyed Him, so far as to make for themselves a false idol and god, a golden calf which they claimed to be the god who had saved them from their enslavement in Egypt. They refused to follow the Lord’s commandments and ways, and they preferred to follow their own thoughts and ideas, their own prejudices and preferences, their own desires and the many temptations of the world.
And in the Gospel passage today we heard about the discussion between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the matter of marriage and divorce, as the latter wanted to test the Lord with the question asking why the Law allowed the people of Israel to do divorce with certain conditions. And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the people that God did not in fact condone such a practice and reminded them all of the sanctity that is inherent in marriage.
But it was because of God’s great love for His people, so great and wonderful that He has been so patient and so compassionate towards them, that He was willing to accommodate them and to guide them towards the right path despite all the rejections, doubts, waywardness and rebelliousness they have shown against Him. When the laws as prescribed and recorded by Moses allowed for the provision of divorce, it was not meant to be taken for granted, and yet the people took it as an excuse to live loosely without regard for holiness and sanctity in life.
God wanted to accommodate His people so as to lead them to Him and allow them to grow more faithful in each and every days of their lives. The Lord has all good intentions and desire for His people and yet, they misused His love and providence, and took for granted what He has lovingly done for their sake. God has continued to love His people regardless, caring for them patiently and revealing to them what He truly wants for them.
Now, all of us ought to reflect on our own lives therefore, on whether we have loved God as we should have, or whether we have been like the people of Israel in the ancient times, in how they constantly disobeyed the Lord and fell into temptations and sin. Have we lived our lives in the way that we should have lived, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we truly loved God wholeheartedly as the holy saints have done?
Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, a holy king and servant of God, the first to be crowned as the King of Hungary by the crown sent to him by the Pope. St. Stephen was remembered for his great many contributions to the Church and to his people, as he strengthened his country and ruled wisely for many years, and also establishing the strong foundations of the Church in the whole of his realm of Hungary.
St. Stephen truly loved God as shown by his great piety, his commitment to the works of God, his personal holiness and faith. And we can see how he also loved Him by loving those whom God has entrusted to be under his care, as those who were in his kingdom prospered under his just and well-managed rule, and his genuine care and generosity towards all of them, especially those who were poor, weak and needy.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to emulate the examples of this holy and devoted servant of God, our holy predecessor who have shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians? Let us all not take the love of God for granted any longer, but instead, appreciating everything that He has done for us, and be thankful of the generous love, compassion and mercy which He has given for us.
May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Stephen of Hungary, grant us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on, dedicating our whole lives to His service for the greater glory of His Name. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.