Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate the feast of a great pillar of the Church, one of its original and among the greatest of the Doctors of the Church, because of his numerous and countless contributions to both the Church and to the faithful as a whole, in leading them to Christ. He is St. Augustine of Hippo, a great man and a great saint, and yet with an interesting origin and story of his life, in how he became such a great servant of God.
Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of St. Monica, his mother, a holy woman completely devoted to the Lord and to her family, particularly that of her son, St. Augustine himself. And we have to understand where they came from and what were their lives like, so that we can understand and benefit most from today’s sharing of the Scriptures and the lives of the saints.
St. Augustine of Hippo was born in a noble Roman family, between a rich Roman nobleman named Patricius who was a pagan worshipper, and St. Monica, his mother, who was already a Christian, and one who was truly devoted to the Lord. St. Augustine lived in a family well connected and in position to enjoy all the favours and benefits of worldly life, and therefore, he got the best education and treatment, and grew to be an educated person and a philosopher.
But all these could not satisfy St. Augustine, as he desired for something more to fill the emptiness in his heart. And so, influenced by his peers and friends at that time, he fell into the company of those who believed in the syncretic and pagan religion of Manichaeanism, where he gave in to the Manichaean ways and teachings of hedonism and worldliness, involving himself with various forms of the pleasures of the flesh.
Nonetheless, even though St. Augustine had started on a path towards sin and therefore towards ruination, it was the hard effort and ceaseless tears and prayers from his mother, St. Monica, who eventually turned St. Augustine back into the light. Firstly, his own father decided to be baptised on his deathbed and accepted fully the Lord Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, and then St. Augustine himself also realised the errors of his ways and repented.
St. Augustine went on to be a teacher, and growing more and more disillusioned with the ways and falsehoods of Manichaeanism, where he did not manage to find true satisfaction, he eventually gave himself to be baptised as well, as a member of the Church, and the prayers which his mother had made for his sake. And thereafter, St. Augustine dedicated himself to the service of God.
And by his many works, including the publications, the City of God and the Confessions which he had written, as well as various other discourses and traditions passed down to us by the other Church fathers, this once great sinner had indeed been transformed completely by the will and by the grace of God to be a great tool for the salvation of mankind and for the deliverance of mankind from our sins.
In today’s Scripture readings we also heard how Jesus told the people the parable of the five wise women and the five careless and foolish women. Many of us knew this story, but do we truly understand its significance? The wise women and the foolish women represent all of us, while the bridegroom represents the Lord who will come again even as He had promised all of us.
The examples of St. Augustine of Hippo should have shown us that all of us have a choice in this life, and this choice is for us to follow either the Lord and His ways, or whether we follow our own whims and our own heart’s desires. God always gives us opportunities, one after another, for He is loving as well as merciful, and despite all of our sins and wickedness, we still have the Lord on our side, holding us and keeping us against the tides of darkness rising against us.
Nevertheless, we should not take this for granted. The Lord loves all of us, for we are indeed the greatest and the most treasured and loved of all the things that God had created, but this does not mean that He just let us all be with all the things we are doing, or condoning all of our sins and wickedness. He continues to watch over us, and it is painful for Him to see how we continue to live in sin and in direct disobedience and rebellion against Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from the examples of St. Augustine of Hippo and many other saints, who were once sinners and then they turned their lives around, and sought out a new life in God. This is also an inspiration for all of us to do the same. No one was born perfect, and no one was blameless, except for our Lord Jesus Himself. All of us made mistakes in some parts of our lives, but what matters, is whether we take those mistakes to task and learn from them.
May Almighty God be our help and our guide, as we walk in the footsteps of St. Augustine of Hippo, that we may also be like him and many other great saints, who took the step to get out of their past sinfulness, repent from those sins, and follow the Lord in all their ways, and by their righteousness, they were brought into eternal glory and life promised by our Lord. May God bless us all. Amen.