Wednesday, 29 December 2021 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to reflect on the Law and commandments of God, on what each and every one of us have received through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, all the truth and love that He has shown us. We have to live our lives virtuously and commit ourselves wholeheartedly as a holy people that God had called and chosen, and to whom God had sent His own beloved Son, that all of us may be saved through Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, we heard the the Apostle exhorting the faithful to be genuine in their faith, in how they ought to be following Christ, in all that He had done throughout His life. We are all called to be genuine and authentic witnesses of Christ’s truth and love in our respective communities and societies. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites and those who profess to be faithful and yet had no love or true faith in the Lord. This is why all of us are reminded by St. John to practice what we believe in our lives.

St. John especially exhorted all of us to be loving just as the Lord Himself has shown His love to us. We ought to follow Him with all of our strength and might, and do whatever we can to live our lives in accordance to the path that He has shown us. We should be truly genuine in our desire to follow Him and to commit ourselves to His path. We must not only show lip service but instead, obey the Lord’s commandments wholeheartedly, resist the temptations to sin and be ready to lead a good Christian life and be exemplary in that life and faith to our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our Gospel passage today we heard the account of the time when the Lord Jesus was presented at the Temple of God in Jerusalem in accordance to the Law by Mary and St. Joseph. At that time, they were met with the devout man of God named Simeon who was already very old and had been waiting and expecting the coming of the Lord and His salvation for a long time. He has been told that he would live to see the Saviour of the world with his very own eyes, and he did finally see Him as he beheld Jesus that day at the Temple of God.

It was there too that he proclaimed God’s words on the Child Jesus, speaking of the Sign that He has shown the world by His coming and all the wonders that He would do in fulfilling the many prophecies that had been made regarding Him. Simeon also spoke of what Mary herself would experience in the days to come, a premonition of her sorrow at the time of the Crucifixion, when she herself would witness her Son’s agony, suffering and death, and thus having her heart pierced with the greatest of sorrows.

What we have heard in our Gospel passage today is again another example of obedience to God, as the Presentation of the Lord was done in accordance with the Law of God, and marked the moment that the Lord was revealed and committed to the ministry that He had been sent to this world for. He was consecrated to God and marked as the One through Whom all that God had planned for the salvation of mankind would be fulfilled perfectly. It was the dedication of Christ as the future High Priest of all, preceding his role as the One to offer the worthy sacrifice for the atonement of our many sins.

Today, all of us as Christians should remind ourselves to be faithful to God and to dedicate ourselves to Him. And we should also emulate the good examples and inspiration given to us by the great saint whose life and works we celebrate today. St. Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury was the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury during the High Medieval era England, in his great passion serving the people of God and in his ministry, in his refusal to let the English king from having his ways in manipulating and controlling the Church, and finally his well-known martyrdom.

St. Thomas Becket was born into a merchant family who rose to become an efficient administrator and later on gained the trust and respect of King Henry II, the King of England. The king made St. Thomas Becket his Chancellor, and entrusted to him the governance of his kingdom. He became a close confidant of the king, and this was one of the main reasons why he was nominated by the king to become the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important position in the Church in England and also the leader of the Church and the other bishops in that kingdom.

The king most likely had wanted to bring the Church and its administration, as well as its income and wealth closer to the royal control. However, if he thought that by appointing his close friend, St. Thomas Becket, that he could achieve this, he was totally wrong. For St. Thomas Becket, after he had been formally appointed, ordained and enthroned as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he began to fiercely defend the independence of the Church from the secular control, especially from the king and his nobles. He strongly resisted the king’s efforts to interfere in the affairs of the Church.

The conflict between the king and Archbishop continued to grow such that there had been multiple tensions in which St. Thomas Becket stood his ground firmly against the king and his corrupt nobles’ actions and efforts. St. Thomas Becket even had to endure more than one exile for his dedication, having to flee to mainland Europe due to the threats against him. In the end, the Archbishop remained firmly faithful to the very end, and when the frustrated king spoke in his drunken rambles, some nobles went to St. Thomas Becket to murder him in cold blood, which enraged all of Christendom.

The faith and dedication showed by St. Thomas Becket should be a great inspiration for us to follow, in obeying the Lord and His laws and commandments, and not to fall into the temptations of this world. We have to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas Becket in remaining virtuous and true to his calling despite the corrupt attitudes of his contemporaries and all those who pressured him and others to disobey the Lord by their own selfish and sinful actions. His courage and devotion to God should be our source of great strength and inspiration.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith, vigour and zeal, and may the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, so that we may always be courageous in living our faith despite the challenges we may encounter in this world. May God bless us all and our every good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

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