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.

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