Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder yet again for us to look up to the Lord our God, our Shepherd and Guide, our Hope and our Light, the One Who has promised us His salvation and grace, and Who has willingly extended upon us His love and kindness, ever enduring and strong despite our constant disobedience and refusal to believe in Him and His love and truth. He has always loved us all despite our delinquent attitude and our hardened hearts and minds, and as our loving Father and Shepherd, He looked out for us, searched for us and did not give up on us, till the very end, seeking for us, His lost sheep and lost children, all of whom are in need of His help and guidance.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the call for the people of God to return to the loving embrace of their God, their Master, their Shepherd and King. The people of God had indeed been wayward in their ways, and they had been erroneous in their actions, but they were truly lucky and blessed to have the Lord by their side all throughout despite all the wickedness and the vile things that they had committed through life. The Lord loved them all, His beloved ones, whom He had loved since the very beginning, all those whom He had called from among the nations to be the first of those whom He loved and made to be His own flock, His own people. Through His promises and Covenant made and renewed through His servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then Moses, King David and many more of the others among the people, God has made a flock and people for Himself, gathering them from the darkness of this world to His light.

But the people of God had not always been faithful to Him, and they had often chosen to walk away from Him, rejecting His love and kindness, worshipping pagan idols and gods, defiling the House and Temple of God in Jerusalem, its Altar and throwing down the Lord’s worship in His Holy of Holies. They had indeed behaved like the lost sheep, who have chosen to trod the rebellious path, running away from the flock and from their Shepherd, following the false illusions of worldly glory and desires, which ended up causing many of those lost sheep of the Lord to be scattered all around the world in the darkness of sin and evil. The Lord however never gave up on all of His lost sheep, calling on all of them to return to Him, sending His messengers and servants, the many prophets and all others who have borne the word of God’s truth and grace.

And although those same people persecuted the prophets and messengers of God, rejecting them and refusing to listen to the message which they had brought to the midst of the people of God, God still sent more of them regardless, and promised them His salvation and deliverance, and the words of hope with which He promised the Saviour and deliverance to come, which was therefore fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, into the world. Through Him, God sent us all the perfect manifestation of His love, as the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh, born into this world through Mary His mother and become the personification of God’s enduring love made tangible and approachable to us. He also proclaimed the coming of God’s salvation as it has been promised, and referred to Himself specifically as the Good Shepherd. The one and only true Good Shepherd of all, the one flock of God’s people.

And as the Good Shepherd, He shower His love and care for each one of us, seeking the last, the lost and the least among us who were still lost to Him, breaking barriers and seeking those who were distant from Him. Those like the crippled and paralysed, those who were sick and dying, those who were afflicted by demons and evil spirits, and all those who were wicked in their deeds, those who were cast aside because they were considered sinners and unworthy of God and His grace. He reached out to all of them, prostitutes, tax collectors, those who were afflicted with diseases and possessed by evil spirits, showing them all the love and grace of God. He showed them that all of them truly had their worth and called on all of them to follow Him, not excluding them and casting them out like what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done to them.

That is exactly what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people of the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd went out of his way, trying his best to look for the lost sheep. The Lord Himself is the Shepherd, going out of His way to try to find us all, His beloved ones who have been lost and separated from Him. Having seen the great love that God has for us, all of us should therefore embrace Him and seek Him with all of our hearts and might. Each one of us should return to Him and listen to His call, as He calls on us with the great call of His voice in our hearts and minds. We must not harden our hearts against Him any longer, but be willing to open the doors for Him to enter and for Him to find us and bring us back to His flock, that we too may have a share in His eternal glory.

Today, all of us ought to reflect upon the great examples set by one holy servant of God, our predecessor in faith, whose name may well be known by many of us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra. He is probably better known all around the world in a more secular occasion as Santa Claus, the ubiquitous figure always ever present during this time of the year, when we saw this bearded old man carrying plenty of gifts for children from his large and heavy bag, dressed all in red and white. Brothers and sisters, that is the fictional Santa Claus, who does not actually exist and who is actually a character inspired by the real St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, one of the early Church fathers and a truly devoted servant of God, as well as a faithful and loving shepherd to the flock entrusted to him by the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Himself.

St. Nicholas of Myra was remembered for his great care, dedication and love for his flock, the people of God under his care as shepherd, and he was known for his habit of coming to children and giving them gifts, which eventually over time gave raise to the legend of Santa Claus as mentioned earlier. St. Nicholas of Myra spent a lot of time visiting his people and parishes, and was a great role model of faith, spending a lot of time in prayer and in guiding the people under his care in finding their way back to the Lord, their Chief Shepherd, their Master, Lord and King. St. Nicholas of Myra was also known for his great devotion to God and to the true faith, opposing heresies and false teachings with all of his might. In an apocryphal story and tale, which may or may not be true, during the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, when the faithful bishops gathered and condemned the false teachings of the preacher Arius that had led to the terrible Arian heresy, St. Nicholas of Myra hit the arch-heretic in the face for his contempt of the Lord and for misleading God’s people as he spoke his words of falsehoods and blasphemies before the assembly of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the life and works of St. Nicholas of Myra, let us all therefore do our best to be inspired to follow his good examples, dedication and hard work in our own lives and works. Let us all do our best to love the Lord, our most loving God and Good Shepherd, and strive to follow Him and be fully reconciled with Him, embracing His most generous mercy and love. Let us all turn our hearts and minds back towards Him, and dedicate ourselves with renewed strength and vigour from now on that we may celebrate the upcoming joyful Christmas with true understanding and appreciation, and not indulge in the excesses of merrymaking and festivities. May God bless us all, in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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