Thursday, 29 December 2016 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by the readings from the Holy Scriptures that we just heard, that in order for us to be disciples of Christ, it is required that we should obey the Lord and fulfil His commandments, and not pretending to believe in Him, and yet in our actions we are corrupt, wicked and contrary to what the Lord had taught us to do.

God Himself has come into the world through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother. And this is the perfect manifestation of His laws and commandments, which are made perfect and fulfilled through Christ. That is because the laws and commandments of God are the commandments of love. And God Himself is love, and through Christ, He has shown each and every one of us what love truly means.

And why is this so? God Himself has become Man willingly out of His love for us. For Him to assume the humble and mere flesh of our humanity is not something that is just insignificant or easily done. How many of us are willing to part with all the greatness, glory and inheritance that we have, for the sake of another person? And how many of us are willing to forsake everything and die for the sake of another person? And indeed, how many of us are willing to do so for the sake of evil and wicked people?

That was what Christ had exactly done. As St. Paul said in his Epistle, very few would have wanted or be willing to die for the sake of another person, even if that person was an upright and good person. Less so would anyone be willing to suffer and die, if that person is a wicked person and a sinner. But that was what Christ had done for us, willingly bearing the cross and our sins, and dying on the cross for us sinners, so that we who believe in Him may live.

And He showed us obedience to the law of God, by obeying the will of His Father perfectly. He did not let His human weaknesses and the temptations of the flesh to bring Him down. He put His complete trust in His Father’s will, and because of that, we are all saved. The chief priests and the elders could not understand why He did not try to save Himself while He had saved many others, mocking Him from below His cross. That was because they were unable to understand His ways, as they were people of this world and had been corrupted by the ways of this world.

And what is that? Perhaps by looking at the life and examples of the great saint whose memory we cherish and celebrate today, we will be better able to understand how we really ought to be living as Christians, and not as the people of this world. St. Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus was the Primate of England and the chief of the Catholic bishops in the kingdom of England, about nine centuries ago.

He was once the chancellor to the king of England, the right hand man of the king, who was entrusted by the king with much power and authority, and was involved in much worldliness and the pursuits of power and the flesh, imitating the behaviours of the nobles and the kings of those days. And everything changed the moment when the king appointed him to be the successor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, expecting him to be as loyal to him as he had been as his chancellor.

But St. Thomas Becket had a great conversion and change of heart, as he became a devout and ardent defender of the faith from then on, to the irritation and annoyance of the king and his nobles. Expecting a submissive and obedient Archbishop of Canterbury and Church, instead, the king got obstacles and challenges as he attempted to undermine the Church and increase his own worldly authority and power.

Tension arose as St. Thomas Becket was increasingly conflicted against the king and his nobles on the other side. But St. Thomas Becket did not fear the world and its opposition, and he held fast to the strong faith he had in the Lord, and when a noble was accused of murdering a man of God, who was indeed a priest, St. Thomas Becket excommunicated the noble despite opposition from the king and the nobles.

Eventually, some nobles, with tacit approval from the king, assassinated St. Thomas Becket, murdered him as he celebrated the Holy Mass. This was met with a huge outcry from the populace and the Church throughout Europe, and the nobles were excommunicated and were forced to undergo penance and carry out service to the Church for many years as penance, and even the king had to publicly shame himself for his role in the murder of this holy saint. But, the legacy of St. Thomas Becket and his examples continue to this very day.

From what he had done in his life, we see how we Christians should be like, that is to reject our worldliness and all the forms of temptations of the flesh, of greed, power, ambition, desire for human glory and fame, all which brought us to corruption and sin, and incompatible with God’s ways. As I have said at the beginning of this discourse today, we must not pay lip service for our faith to the Lord, meaning that we cannot be Christians and yet our actions show contrary to that faith.

Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord this Christmas, remembering once again what is the purpose of our lives as Christians, to serve God with all of our heart, obeying Him with all of our body, mind, heart and soul just as Jesus has obeyed the will of His Father, and willingly die out of love for our salvation. Let us all remember our Lord Who have come in the human flesh as Jesus our Lord, through Whom we receive every blessings and grace. May God be with us all, and may St. Thomas Becket intercede for us sinners. Amen.

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