Tuesday, 16 August 2022 : 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 heard about the sin of pride and all the things that had often prevented man from finding their way back towards God. The Lord is actually warning and reminding us not to give in to the temptations of pride that can lead us down the path of ruin. We have to resist the things that may often come between us and God’s love and grace, our many weaknesses and vulnerabilities, particularly that which involved our ego and pride, which is the same mistake that had misled Satan down the path to destruction.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel telling us of God’s proclamation regarding the Prince of Tyre. Contextually, we must understand that Tyre back then was a great city, founded and belonging to the Phoenicians, a race of people who specialised in trade and commerce in the times past, establishing numerous colonies throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times. The city of Tyre therefore became fabulously wealthy and despite the presence of much more powerful neighbours, the city and people of Tyre were often able to have their way and maintain their relative freedom due to their immense economic capacity.

That was why the kings and rulers of Tyre could act with relative impunity, doing whatever they wanted, proudly boasting their influence and power, even when they were militarily inferior compared to the superpowers like the Assyrians and the Babylonians back then. The Lord warned them and all of His people of the danger of pride, ego and hubris, all of which can become our undoing if we leave them unchecked or if we even indulge in them. And the Lord’s proclamations and predictions eventually came true when the city of Tyre eventually, a few centuries later, was razed and destroyed by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, as attested by historical evidences.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the parable that the Lord Jesus spoke, the well-known story of the camel that passes through the eye of the needle, which the Lord said would be easier to happen rather than for one who is rich and proud, mighty and haughty to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This was a comparison and a point that the Lord made in order to let His disciples and followers know that, just as it would be impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then it would have been even less likely for a man filled with pride and ego to enter into the kingdom of God and into the Holy Presence of God.

That was exactly how Satan fell too, swayed by the pride that made him to rebel against God, and that same temptations were made and presented by Satan to our ancestors as well, and many people, from generation to generation, had fallen into these same temptations. That is why many people found it difficult to come to the presence of God because they have allowed pride, ego and arrogance to keep themselves from realising that they were sinners and were in need of God’s healing and forgiveness, and instead, they kept on living their lives in delusion thinking that they were doing the right things, and spent most of their lives and efforts in pursuing their own selfish desires and wants.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first King of Hungary. He accepted the Lord as his Saviour and was crucial in establishing Christianity as the sole faith of his kingdom and dominion, advancing the cause of the Lord and His Church. But at the same time, St. Stephen of Hungary was also remembered as a great and dedicated king who spent a lot of time and effort to care for the good and the well-being of his subjects. He devoted much to unite his kingdom and to provide for them, with many efforts and projects to improve their livelihood.

St. Stephen was well-remembered and respected because he was truly a great king who did not allow hubris, ambition and pride to come in between him and his dedication to God. He was humble and committed to the calling which the Lord had given him, and the Lord blessed Him and His people, and he and his kingdom were made secure. He did not crave for power or worldly glory, or boast of his power and greatness, but instead did his best for the genuine improvement and well-being of all those whom the Lord had entrusted to be under his care.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do whatever we can to resist the temptations of worldly glory, pleasures and other material goods that can mislead us down the wrong path, and let us also make the effort to resist those temptations, and distance ourselves from pride and ego, learning instead to be humble and to be willing to listen to the Lord. Let us all be open to welcome Him into our midst and do whatever we can to follow Him to the best of our abilities, following in the examples of the holy saints, especially that of St. Stephen of Hungary whom we have just discussed earlier on.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us with the courage and the desire to follow Him and to serve Him at all times. May He help us to resist the temptations and pressures of pride and ego, so that we may always grow ever more faithful to Him, and be ever closer to Him, now and always, evermore. Amen.

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