Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the very last day of the solar year calendar, and being still in the middle of the Christmas season, all of us through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures are reminded to keep our focus on Christ, on God’s truth and love, and not allow ourselves to be distracted and deceived by the many temptations present all around us. As we end our current year and look forward to the beginning of the new year, we have to keep our focus steadily forward, with Christ as our focus and direction, the Star that guides our path ever forward in life.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, the Apostle spoke of the dangers of the antichrists, all those who spoke of falsehoods and heretical teachings not in accordance to the truth and the teachings of the Lord. At that time, even that early in the history of the Church, there were already those who sought to divide the Church and mislead its members and adherents, by spreading teachings and thoughts that were contrary to the truth that the Lord has passed down through His Apostles.

Many of those heresies came about because of the power and influence that those heretical teachers and even wayward priests and clergy could attain by spreading their own version of the truth and teachings of God. They were more concerned with their own fame and glory, and the advancement of their selfish, worldly causes and ambitions rather than to proclaim the truth of God. As such, St. John the Apostle, who have worked for a long time and laboured hard among the people of God, showed his concerns on how all these led the people away from God.

What he was mentioning to us is for us to be vigilant as we look forward to the future and guard ourselves against the many possible corruptions from the world. We must not allow ourselves to be easily swayed and instead we have to keep ourselves firmly focused on the Lord, on His truth and love. We have to live our lives with genuine love for the Lord, obeying His will, His Law and commandments. The Lord has given us the opportunities for us to follow Him, and He has revealed to us His message of love, by the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour into this world.

That is why today in our Gospel passage we are yet again reminded of the reason of our many celebrations that we have during this season of Christmas. We all celebrate because of the Word of God, the Son, Who chose to become Incarnate in the flesh, so that by the action of the Word made flesh, He might become for all of us, past, present and future, the One to redeem us and save us from our fated destruction because of our many sins. In Christmas all of us have been reminded of this great love of God manifested in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the last day of this year, let us all take stock and evaluate carefully how our year had been like. Have we spent the time and effort to be faithful to God and also to dedicate ourselves to His works? Have we truly placed Him at the centre of our lives as we should? As we prepare to welcome the new year, we should look back and see in what way we can do better especially as Christians in living our lives ever more sincerely and genuinely in faith. We should be ready to lead a more wholesome Christian life in the year ahead, and we can do so by following the examples of our holy predecessors, the saints, the holy men and women of God.

Today in particular, on this last day of the year, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Silvester I, also known as Pope St. Sylvester. Pope St. Silvester I was the leader of the Universal Church, as the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the time of new beginnings for the Church. His twenty-one years long pontificate was one of the longest of any Popes, and it ushered in the era of new beginnings for the Christian community and the Church. This is especially considering that his pontificate came right after Pope St. Miltiades, during whose pontificate the Edict of Milan officially tolerating Christianity was declared by the Roman Emperors Constantine and Licinius. This Edict was proclaimed just less than two years before the pontificate of Pope St. Silvester I began.

Pope St. Silvester I and his long pontificate marked the beginning of a new era for the Church and the Christian population throughout the Empire. Of course persecution did not end outright and there remained sporadic persecutions and tensions with the pagans and the authorities, but the end of persecutions opened a lot of opportunities for Christians who have long suffered from various persecutions and opposition from both the Roman government and from the pagan followers. There were a large number of churches and other Christian buildings being built during his pontificate, marking the beginning of a new and brighter future.

However, at the same time, the tensions and divisions that once were not previously apparent or visible began to make themselves apparent as various heretical teachings and thoughts like Arianism and Gnosticism amongst many others began to arise at that time, and in particular Arianism gained so much following and support that with the collaboration of the Roman Emperor, Pope St. Silvester I and many other bishops decided to organise the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea which formulated the official teachings of the Church and the rejection of heresies, just as St. John had warned against earlier.

The life and works of Pope St. Silvester I should remind all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the future is not necessarily bleak or dark. We all know just how difficult these past two years had been on so many of us, but we must have faith in the Lord that everything will one day be fine again. We have to look forward to a brighter future while at the same time being vigilant against all the evils and wicked influences, all the false paths that can mislead us down the wrong path. The best way for us is to commit ourselves fully to the Lord and entrust ourselves to Him.

Let us all seek the Lord with a new heart and be more committed to Him from now on. May He continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, so that we will always have hope in Him and as we enter into the new year, may He continue to bless us in each and every good endeavours, and bless our loved ones, families and friends. May God bless us all, and bless our year ahead. Amen.

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