Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this last day of the Gregorian Calendar year, and therefore as we approach the coming of the New Year, let us also remember that we are still in the midst of the Christmas season, and we ought to look back at our past year and see in what way have we been faithful to the Lord our God, Who out of His love for us, have come into the world to save us from certain destruction because of our sins.
He has come into the world at Christmas, firstly about two millennia ago, when He was born in Bethlehem, as St. John put it at the beginning of his Gospel, which is our Gospel passage, that He is the Word of God, Who is God and Who is with God ever since the beginning of time. And the Lord has endeavoured out of His love, to bring forth the Word into the world by His will, and assume the flesh of Man. And thus that was how He entered the world, and that was how He became the One through Whom God saved us by His death on the cross.
But as we come to the end of the Christmas season, and as we approach the beginning of another new year, each and every one of us must remember that Christmas is not just about the Lord and Saviour Who had once come into the world. Rather, it is also about the Lord Who has promised us that He will come again at the time of His choosing, and at that time, He shall deliver all of His beloved people, those who are faithful to Him, from the darkness and into the light of His eternal life.
And in the first reading today, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist reminded us all that the hour will come, and we should not assume that we have a lot of time to prepare ourselves for the eventual coming of the Lord. Rather, we should assume that it is indeed the final hour, and every single moment of our lives is a blessing for us, and we should thank Him for all the opportunities we have been given.
And he also warned us that there will be false prophets who had come, and who will come into this world, the antichrists, the agents of the devil and his fallen angels, designed and tasked to confuse us and lead us into the false paths, that we lose our way and fall into temptation, and instead of joining the Lord in His grace, we fall into the eternal damnation of hell with Satan and his angels.
That is why, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should commit ourselves to the Lord anew and strengthen our faith in Him so that we will not falter amidst the challenges and the temptations of this world. We should devote some time today and from now onwards to think about what are we going to do to prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord when He comes again for us. Are we going to wait and do nothing? Or are we going to take charge of our lives and do what He had asked us to do?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us also look upon the example of Pope St. Silvester I, the saint whose feast day we celebrate today. As the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at his time, he lived during a time of a great change in the. Church and in the world. He reigned as Pope following the reign of Pope St. Miltiades, during whose time the Edict of Milan was proclaimed by the Roman Emperor Constantine, ending centuries long persecution of the Christian faith and the Church.
At that time, the Church was divided between many factions, with many believing in the false teachings and tenets of Arius, who claimed that Jesus our Lord was mere Man and not both God and Man. Arius and many other false prophets deceived many in the Church, and they became heretics who misled others to follow their own path and false ways.
That was why at that time, Pope St. Silvester I and his contemporaries persuaded the Emperor Constantine, who was favourable to the Christian faith and teachings, to convene the first Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in the year 325 AD in order to address the issues of these apostates and false teachings, and thus to prevent the false teachings from further dividing the Church and misleading the faithful.
And it was in that Ecumenical Council that the false teachings of Arius and the other heretics were formally condemned, and the same Creed of faith which has been passed down to us from the Apostles and the Church fathers, the Nicene Creed was formulated. And this is also closely linked to the great Solemnity that we are going to celebrate tomorrow, namely that of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God.
If the teachings of Arius had been true, that Jesus was merely a creature of the Lord, a mere Man and not Divine, then Mary would indeed be just a mere mother of man, just like any other women and mothers. But no, Pope St. Silvester I and the faithful bishops and leaders of the Church stood by the true faith, believing in the Lord Who is both God and Man at the same time, possessing two distinct natures which are nevertheless inseparable from each other.
Brethren, what we have heard today with regards to Pope St. Silvester and his life should inspire us all as Christians that we should not take our faith for granted. There are many of those who desire our downfall, and by many means they will do their best to prevent us from reaching the goal of our salvation, either by persuasion, temptation, or even by force and persecution.
We should prepare ourselves for the eventual coming of our Lord, that we make use of this opportunity which has been granted to us, in order to be righteous and just in all of our deeds, so that the Lord will find us worthy when He comes into this world, and all of us will receive grace and everlasting life from Him. Let us all begin a New Year from tomorrow onwards with a new, courageous and determined hearts and minds, desiring to give of ourselves fully to the Lord.
May the Lord help us and guide us, and may He ever strengthen our resolve to live fully in accordance with His will and grace. God bless us all, and may He bless our year ahead with good things and many blessings. Amen.