Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the last day of the Gregorian solar calendar and which is also the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas, all of us are called to reflect on what has transpired and happened in the past one year of our lives, as well as how we have celebrated Christmas all these while, now that it is approaching one week since the beginning of our Christmas festivities.
At Christmas, its season and celebrations, all of us are always called to reorientate and refocus ourselves and our lives to God. Today’s Scripture readings are no different, as proven by today’s Gospel from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, the very same reading used for the Mass celebration of the daytime Christmas. In that reading, used to be read at every celebrations of the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Roman Rite, called the Last Gospel, is contained the essence of the fundamental Christian truths we believe in.
It is no coincidence also then that as this reading was used to be read at the end of every celebrations of the Holy Mass, and is still being read now by those who celebrate in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, that it is also being used today, at the very end of our solar calendar. This serves as a very important and timely reminder that God, Who was God, is God, and will always be God, the Word of God, has assumed the flesh of Man, and descended into this world, to become our Saviour.
And this truth is unchanging, just as God is always ever true through time immemorial, year after year, again and again. And as we progress on to the next year, beginning with tomorrow’s new year’s day, all of us are reminded of this truth which we have heard in our Gospel today, as we all believe in the One, Christ Who is the Divine Word incarnate, the Word made Flesh, by which He has gathered all of us to Himself and redeemed us by His sacrifice on the Cross.
It is this truth that we cherish and celebrate in Christmas, as we remind ourselves again of why we rejoice in this Christmas season, not for the merrymaking and gifts, or for the glamour and pleasures we receive from all the celebrations and parties, but rather because through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of us have received the complete assurance of eternal life and salvation.
The same Child born in Bethlehem over two millennia ago and celebrated on Christmas, is the same One Who would be the Saviour of all, by voluntarily enduring for us all the sufferings and punishments intended for us because of our sins, and bearing all of them on His Cross, He brought us all the promise of a new life and hope in Him through faith. And yet, many of us have not believed in Him and His salvation.
As St. John told us through his Epistle in our first reading today, there are those who profess and proclaim different beliefs and truths from the truth which we have heard, and those are called the antichrists. Those antichrists work against the truth of God, the real and true Christ, through Whom we shall receive the fullness of God’s promise salvation, glory and life. But the forces of those arrayed against us, led by the antichrists and the devil, are powerful.
They have in their means and possessions, many tools to tempt us and lure us away from the path leading towards Christ. That is why St. John told us all to be vigilant and to be prepared, for the time will come, even as he has foreseen in the Book of Revelations, of the coming of the Lord and the final reckoning between good and evil. At that time, God will rescue all those who still remain faithful to Him and cast away from Him all those who reject Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we end this current solar year and begin a new year tomorrow, let us all reflect on our lives thus far and think of how we can progress in life with faith. And we should look therefore on the saint whose feast day we celebrate today, namely Pope St. Silvester I, one of the early Popes of the Church. Pope St. Silvester I was instrumental in his role in leading the Church into a new era after many centuries of persecutions.
At that time, the Church had just very recently survived through the most brutal era of persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and which was partly continued by his successor, the Emperor Galerius. Just one year before the beginning of the reign of Pope St. Silvester, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and the Emperor of the East, Licinius agreed and signed the Edict of Milan in the year 313, proclaiming the toleration of Christians and ending of the many centuries of persecution.
Pope St. Silvester reigned for approximately twenty-one years, one of the longer reign among the Popes, leading the Church through this new era, a time when the Church began to receive support from the state and finally was able to celebrate publicly and freely the profession of their faith. Many important churches were built during this period and the foundations of the Church was strengthened by the efforts of Pope St. Silvester and his contemporaries.
He was also supportive of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, which although he was unable to attend in person, but he did send delegates to the Council to support its works in declaring the objective Christian truth amidst the falsehoods of many of those who tried to lead the Church and the faithful astray, especially the heresy of Arianism, which Pope St. Silvester also courageously resisted and opposed.
As we have heard from the life and works of Pope St. Silvester, we can see how there are going to be lots of challenges and trials for us going forward in life, just as Pope St. Silvester encountered many challenges throughout his long twenty-one years pontificate. However, at the same time, just as he presided over a great new beginning of the Church and the faith, we too are called to look forward with faith and hope as we embark on this new year.
What is our resolution for this coming new year, brothers and sisters in Christ? If our resolution is all about gaining more wealth, glory and happiness for ourselves as many often do, year after year, or if we do not even have any resolution made or thought of at all, then I suggest that we resolve to enter this new year with a new faith in God, seeking to glorify Him from now on through our actions, and strive to follow Him and to be ever closer to Him, with each and every moments of our life.
Let us all give thanks to God for the year that has passed, for all its good and not so good things, for all that God has blessed us with. May the Lord continue to watch over us and bless us through the new year and beyond. May He be with us always, at all times. Amen.