Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : 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 called to focus our attention as we progress along the Christmas Octave, to focus on the Light of the world and the Light of our salvation, Jesus Christ. The Lord has come into the world and born to be our Saviour, and His light has restored us and pierced away the darkness and evil surrounding us. Through His Light we have seen the salvation of God, and because of that, we rejoice and are glad.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the account of the time when the Lord Jesus was presented at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as per the Law of God revealed through Moses, which decreed that all the firstborn of Israel ought to be presented and offered to God. And at that moment, there were two people who came to the Lord, both of whom had been waiting for that encounter for a long time.

Simeon, the elder of the people was full of joy to be able to see the Messiah or the Saviour, as the Lord had told him that he would not die and rest before he saw the Messiah with his own eyes. And again, we heard Simeon saying in thanksgiving that because he had seen the Light of the Lord’s salvation, then he could finally rest and go to his fathers. He was referring to the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world.

Then the old prophetess Anna who was also there, spoke of the Child saying that He would be the sign for many and would bring the salvation of God to the nations, and together with Simeon, they were also saying that sorrow would come to Mary, the Mother of the Lord and figuratively saying that ‘a sword would pierce her own heart’, a reference and premonition of the sorrow that she would experience at the crucifixion and the death of her Son Jesus on the Cross.

St. John in his Epistle as we heard in our first reading spoke of the Light of the Lord having arrived and dwelled in our midst, and yet, many of us have yet to accept His light and turned our back against Him. The Light of God has entered into the world and yet we did not show Him true and genuine faith. We have done exactly what St. John said in his Epistle that while we claim to be living in the light, yet our actions show that we are still in darkness.

Let us all look no further than how we have lived our lives and how we celebrate this Christmas then. How many of us have lived our lives caring only about ourselves, acted selfishly and in our own self-interest all these time? Have we been focusing too much on our many plans and desires in life? And have we been forgetting Christ in all of our Christmas festivities and celebrations so far?

Today we are all being reminded that we are celebrating Christ, the Light of our salvation in this season of Christmas, and therefore our celebration focus should be on Him and not on ourselves, and neither should the focus be on the glamour or the merry-making themselves. We rejoice because the Lord has so lovingly and generously loved us that He gave us all Jesus, Our Lord and Salvation to bring us out from our wretched and sinful state.

Let us all look upon the Light of Christ and reflect on what He has done to us, all the love He has shown us, and strive to be faithful and renew our devotion to Him. We must not lose our focus on the Light that Christ has brought us or else, we may end up falling into the many temptations of the world, of power, fame and glory, of wealth and influence that in the end led us to sin against God.

That is why today we should look upon the faithful life and the examples set by today’s saint, namely the great St. Thomas Becket, the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England from several centuries ago. He died in martyrdom defending the faith and the rights of the Church against the actions and tyranny of the then king of England, and was faithful to the very end despite the trials and challenges that he had to face for many years.

St. Thomas Becket himself was a close friend of the king of England, Henry II, and he was entrusted eventually with the important and powerful office of the Chancellor of England, becoming essentially the right hand man of the king. And king Henry II in his efforts to bring the Church and more income into his direct control, attempted to do so by appointing St. Thomas Becket to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the most influential and important bishop in all of England.

But contrary to what king Henry II had hoped, such an action actually completely undermined his effort and attempt to rule over the Church and the matters of faith. Although a good friend of the king, but his new responsibility as the Archbishop of Canterbury brought about a complete conversion of St. Thomas Becket, much like the Light of Christ dispelling the darkness of the world.

St. Thomas Becket opposed the king in his efforts to bring the Church under the control of the state, and when the king attempted to do so, and was trying to influence Church affairs, St. Thomas Becket opposed all of these and defended the rights and the independence of the Church. He was opposed by many of the nobles who sided with the king, and he had to endure bitter opposition and challenges, and were exiled from his See for more than once.

But this did not stop St. Thomas Becket from his courageous efforts and works in glorifying God and defending the rights of the Church. St. Thomas Becket persevered in his efforts to defend the Lord and His servants, and this led to his murder by the four knights who mistook the king’s drunken stupor and frustration with an order to execute the faithful bishop, who was in the eyes of many nobles, was a traitor to the king and country. Thus was how the infamous murder of St. Thomas Becket came to be, with the Archbishop murdered brutally in his Cathedral during prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hopefully the story of the faith and dedication of the faithful St. Thomas Becket can become an inspiration for many of us to follow just as we continue living our lives and in how we are celebrating this Christmas season in the days to come. Let us all be faithful and be good witnesses of the Lord at all times, that we may bring the Light of Christ into our darkened world through our every actions and deeds, at every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 5b-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

YHVH is the One Who made the heavens. Splendour and majesty go before Him; power and glory fill His sanctuary.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 3-11

How can we know that we know Him? If we fulfil His commands. If you say, “I know Him,” but do not fulfil His commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep His word, God’s love is made complete in you. This is how we know that we are in Him : he who claims to live in Him must live as He lived.

My dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment, but reminding you of an old one, one you had from the beginning. This old commandment is the word you have heard. But, in a way, I give it as a new commandment that is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and true light already shines.

If you claim to be in the light but hate your brother, you are still in darkness. If you love your brothers and sisters, you remain in the light and nothing in you will make you fall. But if you hate your brother you are in the dark and walk in darkness without knowing where you go, for the darkness has blinded you.

Monday, 28 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, remembering all those innocent children and infants of the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the place of Our Lord’s birth, who had perished and died at the order of king Herod the Great in his futile attempt to remove and destroy the Lord as his rival King. King Herod feared the Lord and did not want Him to overthrow him and thus, he tried in vain to remove this threat.

King Herod tyrannically ordered the slaughter of all those children and infants below the age of two years old, selfishly and jealously trying to protect his own power and rule, and he would not hold back even in trying to destroy innocent lives. In doing so, he had made martyrs out of all those infants and children, the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. The Holy Innocents of Bethlehem are in our thoughts today as we celebrate their memories.

We may then be wondering why is it that God Who is loving and kind, compassionate and merciful would allow for such a terrible deed to be committed. Some of us may wonder that the Lord could have intervened for the sake of those little and innocent children, could He not? Indeed, as God is Almighty, such a deed would have been easily done, and He could have struck king Herod easily.

But the Lord did not do that, just as He did not strike us down when we sinned, immediately at the moment of our sins. Do we remember Adam and Eve, our very first ancestors who disobeyed God in the Gardens of Eden? If God had wanted to destroy them for their sins, they very well could have done so, but the Lord has given them free will, and since they consciously chose to listen to the devil instead of Him, thus they had to suffer the consequences of their action and choice.

And in the end, God Who created them out of love would not destroy His beloved ones but gave us all the opportunity and chance to repent and turn away from the sins we had committed. King Herod in his futile efforts to destroy his rival in the King of kings, Jesus, had committed grave sin from his own conscious choice, succumbing to his pride, desire and greed, and he abused the free will given to him by God, causing untold suffering in others.

Therefore, the great tragedy that happened in the massacre of the infants and children of Bethlehem was caused by none other than our own corrupt ambitions and desires, our wicked and evil attitudes, which led us down to the path of destruction and for whatever we have committed in sin against God, we shall be judged and condemned by our very own actions, words and deeds at the final judgment.

St. John in our first reading today in the Epistle that he wrote reminded all of us that we are all sinners and that all of us deserve to be punished because of our sins, and we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we had no sin. All the sufferings, destructions and wickedness present in the world all these while have been caused by our disobedience against God, our sins and vile actions.

Yet, through Christ Our Lord, the Saviour born into the world and celebrated in this Christmas, all of us have received the sure promise and assurance that we will be spared and receive the eternal life and glory promised to us through Him. The Lord has shown us that all the infants of Bethlehem who perished that day did not die in vain, as martyrs of innocence, because the Lord had come to bring an end to all these brutalities and wickedness.

And how did He do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by revealing His truth, His way and the path that He wants us all to walk in to us all. He taught us through His disciples and His Church that we must no longer be subjected and ruled over by our sins, by our wicked desires and greed, by our pride, ego and ambition. Instead, we are all called to follow the Lord faithfully and commit ourselves wholeheartedly from now on in His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive as Christians to end the bitter cycle of violence and suffering in our world, by first of all making sure that we Christians do not act in our own self-interest and causing sufferings in others just so that we can satisfy our own selfish wants and greed. Let us all get rid from ourselves these corruptions of pride and greed, of lust and jealousy, of anger and wrath, that we do not end up falling into the same terrible sin committed by king Herod.

Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the path of righteousness and justice as shown by the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? This season of Christmas let us make our celebrations meaningful by doing what we can to contribute to our community, and showing love, care and compassion especially to the marginalised, the poor and the unloved, and seek to be more selfless and to love one another with ever greater devotion, from now on. Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, pray for us all sinners. Amen.

Monday, 28 December 2020 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 2 : 13-18

After the wise men had left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where He stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : I called My Son out of Egypt.

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learnt from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.

In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled : A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation : Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.