Monday, 24 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of our calling as Christians to be the disciples and followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Risen Messiah, and to proclaim His Resurrection, His truth and love to all the people of all the nations. We are also reminded that in doing our mission and calling, in our ministry and life as Christians, there may be hurdles, trials and obstacles facing us, and yet we have to stay strong and devout in faith, and we should not lose faith and hope because the Lord is and has always, and will always ever be with us, journeying with us by our side. All of us are reminded that we all should stay by the Lord and remain truly faithful to Him, and to trust always in His guidance and providence for us. We must believe in Him and follow Him, even if things in life go against us, and that is what we are being reminded this day.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the moment when St. Stephen, one of the first seven holy Deacons of the Church, appointed to assist in the works and mission of the Church, was confronted by those who opposed the Lord and His teachings, as they debated about the things which St. Stephen has been proclaiming and teaching to the people, regarding the truth and the Good News of the Lord, as well as His Resurrection from the dead. St. Stephen spoke with great wisdom, courage and strength despite all the challenges and the plotting against him. His opponents even bribed people to give false testimonies and accusations against St. Stephen, twisting the truth and the words that the Lord Himself has spoken, accusing St. Stephen for spreading the teachings of the Lord Jesus among the people.

Those people were trying hard to drive the sentiments of the assembly and the members of the Sanhedrin to go against St. Stephen, with efforts and attempts to discredit the servant of God and to persecute him. However, no matter whatever accusations and falsehoods they tried to blame on him, St. Stephen, empowered, strengthened and guided by the Holy Spirit, full of the Wisdom of God, broke through all of their arguments and wicked falsehoods, and he refuted all of their nonsense arguments and lies. As mentioned in the first reading passage today, St. Stephen’s face appeared before all the assembled people like as if the face of an Angel, a manifestation of the great strength, power and Wisdom that the Lord has bestowed upon Him through the Holy Spirit. As mentioned, this was one proof of how the Lord never abandoned His faithful ones in their hour of need.

Then in our Gospel Reading, we heard of the people who have been fed by the Lord in the well-known miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men and many thousands of others, who sought for the Lord and wanted to find out more from Him. The Lord told them how they sought Him for ulterior motives, as they were happy that they were fed and taken care of, and yet they have not yet had strong and genuine faith in them. This was because they sought for benefits and gains for themselves in their following and adherence to the Lord. But true faith requires total commitment and trust in the Lord, even amidst challenges and trials, oppression and tribulation, struggles and difficulties, just like how St. Stephen who faced such struggles and hardships and yet remained true to his commitment. Otherwise, we may find it really difficult to resist the temptations of sin in our daily living.

That is why we have to grow in faith and trust in the Lord, and we have to remain firmly rooted in Him. We have to endure the trials and tribulation, challenges and hardships that may come our way, or else, like how the disciples initially reacted upon seeing their Lord and Master being betrayed and arrested, they lost heart and abandoned Him, all fleeing to safeguard their own lives and to take care of their own well-being. Their faith back then were not strong enough and they were still driven by their own personal desires and wishes rather than true and genuine faith in the Lord, and hence, when persecutions came their way, their faith wavered and they chose to flee and abandon the Lord instead of persevering in faith. This is a reminder then that we should not waver in our faith, and continue to endure the challenges and trials, and help one another in doing so.

As we continue to progress through this season of Easter, let us all be good role models and live our lives faithfully each day, living as faithful Christians, as joyful Easter people, a people of the Resurrection, a people of faith and devotion to God. Let us all inspire our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly all those who are still struggling with their faith, and those enduring a lot of trials and challenges in being Christians in their respective communities and places. All of us can be sources of great inspiration for them and for one another just as the Apostles and the many other disciples of the Lord, the Church fathers and also the innumerable saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors had shown us. We should remain firm in our faith and put our trust in the Lord as they all had done.

Today, we have yet another saint, a holy man of God whose feast we celebrate and whose life can be yet another source of inspiration for us. St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen was a great priest and servant of God, known for his piety and holiness, as well as dedication in serving God and His people. He spent a lot of time caring for the people around him, even before becoming a priest, and later on, as member of the Capuchin Order, he spent even more effort and time in ministering to God’s people, and also to all those who have lapsed from their faith, and all those who have apostatised and abandoned their Christian faith for various heresies existing then. He faced many enemies and all those who openly threatened to kill him for his works and efforts, just as what St. Stephen had experienced, but St. Fidelis did not let this to deter him or to make him afraid. He kept on doing his works, until he was martyred in the midst of his ministry, faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore by the examples showed by the faithful servants of God, the many saints and martyrs who have gone before us, especially that of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen and St. Stephen. Let us all be inspired by their trust and faith in the Lord, and their humility and willingness to allow the Lord to lead them in the right path, as they carried out their ministry faithfully. Let us all be inspired and strengthened by them, be courageous and strong in our faith. May our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, efforts and works, always. Amen.

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