Friday, 29 December 2017 : 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 from the first reading taken from the Epistle of St. John, we listened to the exhortation made by St. John to the people, about the matter of obedience to God’s laws and commandments. All of us must believe in God’s commandments and obey Him if we are to be truly belonging to Him, and if we want to call ourselves as true Christians.

We cannot consider ourselves to be devoted to God on one hand, and then on the other hand, perform actions and deeds that are contrary to God’s laws and commandments. If we do such a thing, basically what we have done is an utter disgrace and scandal upon our faith, as well as a wicked thing in the eyes of the Lord. St. John himself did not mince his words in the passage today, as he said that those who did not follow God’s laws and yet claim to be His disciple is a liar.

In the Gospel passage today, we then listen to another reading, from an account of the moment when Our Lord Jesus was presented as a Baby eight day after He was born in Bethlehem, at the Temple of Jerusalem, in accordance with the laws which God had revealed to His people through His servant Moses, that all the firstborn sons of Israel ought to be presented and offered to Him to be consecrated to God.

Mary and Joseph obeyed the law faithfully and presented the Baby Jesus as prescribed by the law. There they met Simeon, an old man who was renowned for his faith in God, and who then told Mary about the fate that awaited her as well as her Son Jesus. God told Simeon that he would not die until he gazed his eyes on the Saviour of the world, the Messiah, and so he did. And as we heard in the Gospel today, Simeon revealed a prophecy to Mary.

Simeon told her that the Baby would become a Sign to Israel, and indeed, the Sign of God’s salvation, for it was through Him that mankind has been saved from sin and death, because of the loving and ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross at Calvary. And at the same time, Simeon gave Mary a premonition to Mary, about her own great sorrow because of what was to happen to her Son.

He said to her that a sword would pierce her own heart, which is a figurative and symbolic way of representing the great sorrow which Mary experienced at the moment of the suffering and the crucifixion of her Son, Jesus Christ, as He went through His Passion. And as a loving mother who loved her Son greatly, it must have been very painful for her to witness what was happening to Him on the cross.

And yet, all of us should follow the example of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster father, the Holy Family, as we link it back to what we have heard in the first reading today. All of them are the epitome and best examples of faith and obedience to God, as Jesus was obedient to His Father’s will, and obeyed Him even to the point of accepting death on the cross.

For Mary, she obeyed the Lord and followed His will, even though she knew that she would have to go through a lot of difficult hardships and challenges, she had to encounter many obstacles, and she had to see her Son being rejected by the very people He was sent to save. She had to witness Him being persecuted and tortured, and eventually die a most painful death on the cross. Yet, she remained faithful, all the way, and yes, all the way to the foot of the cross.

And Joseph also faithfully devoted himself to protect the Holy Family, bringing the Baby Jesus and Mary to Egypt for exile when king Herod wanted Him dead. He brought them back to Nazareth when it was safe, and helped to bring up Jesus and guide Him during His younger years, as a loving father, even though Jesus was not his biological Son.

We can see the great faith and dedication in the members of the Holy Family. And today, we celebrate yet another saint and servant of God, whose faith and dedication to the Lord led to his brave defense of the faith and holy martyrdom in that same faith, refusing to disobey the Lord and betray Him. He is St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury who lived and reigned as Archbishop approximately eight centuries ago.

St. Thomas Becket was the Chancellor to the King of England, king Henry II. King Henry appointed St. Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, as the leader and Primate of All England, hoping that by doing so, he would be able to control the Church in his dominions and bend it to his will, as St. Thomas Becket was his good friend and also his close confidant.

However, St. Thomas Becket had a renewal of heart and he was called by God to a greater purpose. He turned his life around and abandoning all of his former wicked lifestyle, he began to walk faithfully in God’s path from then on. In the end, he had to stand up against the king and his nobles who were increasingly manipulative and hostile to the works of the Church.

St. Thomas Becket refused to give in to the demands of the king, and when a nobleman killed a priest of the Church, St. Thomas Becket excommunicated the nobleman even when the king showed his great displeasure and anger at this action. In the end, the king called for his removal, and some of his noblemen went to St. Thomas Becket in his Cathedral, and murdered him in cold blood.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all those servants of God, the members of the Holy Family, Our Lord Jesus Himself have shown us how we ought to be faithful to God’s laws and commandments, and we must not allow worldly temptations and desires to distract and lead us astray. We should be faithful and be courageous in our faith, and live in accordance with God’s ways from now on, if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord bless all of us and may He strengthen us in our faith, that we may always walk in the footsteps of His faithful servants, and in the path set by His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

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