Monday, 16 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we as God’s people are to keep His commandments and His Law faithfully, dedicating our hearts completely to the Lord, loving Him with all our strength and effort, and doing whatever we can to be His faithful and dedicated witnesses in our community, wherever we may be. And we should do this with sincere heart and be filled with genuine commitment to the Lord, in giving of ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the Lord sent His servants and called judges to be His representatives among His people, to be their leader and guides in their journey of life, in the land promised to them and which they had received. And we heard how those people had fallen into sin, disobeying God and following the path of pagan and idol worship, forgetting the love which God had shown them and their ancestors, all the miracles and wonders, and the good fortunes and life they have enjoyed in the promised land.

As a consequence, they had to suffer because of their insolence and their lack of gratitude and appreciation of everything that the Lord had done for them. They were easily swayed by worldly pleasures and temptations, and they did not truly have genuine love for the Lord, and as a result, they easily fell into the traps that the devil and all of his forces had set up in order to mislead and distract all of the people from their path towards God. They were lulled by the comfort of their new life, and were tempted to abandon the strict rules and regulations of the Law, which served as a constant reminder that they ought to live worthily for the Lord.

That is why, they walked away from God’s path and became wayward. And yet, despite the punishment that He has levied against them, the Lord in fact still loved His people very much. Those punishments were meant to chastise and discipline as much as to remind and to redirect the people to the right path, which God has shown His people through His judges and other servants, all those appointed to help the people to be reconciled with God and to find their way back to Him, so that they may be saved. And the same passage told us how the people fell again and again into sin, as once the previous judge passed on, they would fall again into temptations and sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we then heard in our Gospel passage today, we heard about the encounter between a rich young man with the Lord. The young man wanted to follow the Lord and asked Him what he should have done in order to follow Him. And the Lord then asked him if he has already dedicated himself to the Law and understood God’s commandments. The young man was well-versed in the Law and the commandments, and he confidently said that he had done everything as prescribed by the Law.

However, when the Lord then called him and asked him to give up everything he had to the poor and to leave everything behind in order to follow the Lord, he left the Lord with great sorrow and being very dejected. This showed us all that the man did not truly have the Lord as the true focus and emphasis of his heart, and that is why he had a hard time detaching himself from the temptations of his worldly comforts, his possessions and wealth, his properties and resources, all of which had prevented him from truly embracing the Lord’s will.

This is why today we are all reminded not to fall into the same temptation of the flesh, and to listen to God and obey His will. We should remain firmly faithful in Him, and just as the Israelites looked up to the Lord’s appointed judges for guidance and inspiration, we should also seek inspiration from among our holy predecessors, namely the saints whose lives had been virtuous and exemplary, and which we can also emulate and follow in our own respective lives.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian King of Hungary. St. Stephen was remembered as a great king who ruled wisely and helped to unite his people and make his nation a strong and also most importantly Christian one. He dedicated his country to the Blessed Virgin Mother of God and established many churches and institutions throughout the land. Not only that the people and the country flourished physically and economically, but also spiritually.

St. Stephen ruled as a wise and just king, and he genuinely cared for the well-being of his people, both in physical and spiritual matters. He helped to establish a solid foundation for the Church, building its infrastructure and hierarchy, and led to many of his own people to convert to the true faith. He was also pious and dedicated to God, and his own piety became great inspiration to many of his successors and many others who emulated his great example as a Christian king.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can emulate the faith and the good examples set by St. Stephen of Hungary, in our own lives. Are we all able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, and not be easily tempted and swayed by worldly desires and possessions? Let us all not be like the rich young man, who still loved his worldly possessions more than the Lord. It does not mean that we have to sell everything and give everything to the poor, but rather, we must never put the Lord as less important than those worldly things.

Let us all now therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, particularly that of St. Stephen of Hungary. May the Lord be our guide and strength, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully and with greater dedication to serve the Lord in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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